EXPO 2016 Antalya should be a sustainable project model

EXPO 2016 Antalya should be a sustainable project model

When we invited more than 200 journalists from at least three dozen countries to the eastern province of Erzurum in 2012 for the yearly meeting of the Ski Club of International Journalists (SCIJ), I was a bit concerned about whether our colleagues would truly enjoy skiing in Turkey.

Not that Turkey lacks the “natural” infrastructure. But the current technological infrastructure as well as the culture and vision which enable skiing long and diverse slopes was not yet at comparable levels with the traditionally “ski-friendly” countries like Switzerland, France and Canada. 

I had no doubt that our colleagues would enjoy the touristic part in Istanbul, as well as the food, the entertainment, the hospitality and the quality of the organization. Ever since 2012, I have been attending the SCIJ meetings organized in other countries, and as the Turkish team, we have heard nothing but positive remarks about the Erzurum meeting. To my surprise, although the weather conditions did not help us at all, even those who were excellent skiers told us how they enjoyed being in Erzurum. “It was a complete change of the landscape,” a Swiss colleague told me.

Indeed, Turkey has huge assets which provide it with comparable advantages, yet to make the most out of these assets requires not just economic means but a vision.

We reason we chose Erzurum was because the city had hosted the winter Universiade the previous year, in 2011, providing the city with new skiing facilities. We wanted to help promote Erzurum. Promotion by itself is not enough however.

The importance of sustainability

Cities which host big international events should share their experiences on how best to make use of the facilities in the aftermath of the events.

Before going to Sestriere for this year’s SCIJ meeting, I did not have much of an idea about this ski resort in the vicinity of Torino. But just as I started talking about my ski destination, I had at least two of my friends speaking highly about the place.

Indeed, the skiing in Sestriere was excellent but what made it special was that we stayed in the Olympic village and were able to ski and in fact conduct our yearly ski competition on slopes where Olympic athletes competed a decade ago.

Some 10 years after the Torino Winter Olympics, the whole place was full of tourists; a clear sign that Italians were successful in making the best of the Olympics after it was over.

The Torino games had a budget of 2 billion euros but not all was spent and the 70 million euros saved is still being used today. 

All the villages in the valley have united to form a sort of consortium (which was also a first in Italy) and they have a special law to use the money for the maintenance and rehabilitation of Olympic facilities.

I think one of the smartest moves for the aftermath has been to add blue pistes, which are easier to ski, to the more difficult red and black pistes. And that, according to local officials, has been incremental in increasing the number of tourists. After ten years, only the bobsled and the ski jump courses are not used.

You may wonder why I am talking about a ski resort when we are well into mid-spring and heading towards the summer.

Expo 2016 Antalya opened its door to visitors last weekend in the Mediterranean province. While conducting an interview about it, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Antalya’s mayor talking about the aftermath as he was answering my first question. 

In contrast to other examples in Turkey, where big international events have not produced a success story in terms of the aftermath, he seemed aware of the importance of thinking in advance about what to do with the expo when it officially ends after six months. I hope local officials will be able to implement what they have in mind. 

By the way, I have already come across several articles by Turkish journalists praising Italy and recommending visiting the Italian garden at Expo 2016 Antalya, which has the theme “Flowers and Children.” 

It seems Italians have made serious promotion activity within the framework of the expo. And that is another example of their professionalism.