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The Bureau of International Expositions (Bureau International des Expositions in French), also known popularly by its acronym the B.I.E., is the governing body of world's fairs (international expositions).

Founding and purpose

The B.I.E. was established by an international convention signed in Parismarker on 22 November 1928, with the following goals:

1. to oversee the calendar, the bidding, the selection and the organisation of World Expositions;

2. to establish a framework allowing countries to cooperate under the best conditions as organisers of Expositions or as participants through national pavilions.

To date, 154 member countries have adhered to the BIE Convention.

The B.I.E. regulates two types of expositions: Registered Exhibitions (commonly called Universal Expositions), and Recognized Exhibitions (commonly called International or Specialised Expositions).

At least one world's fair after the B.I.E.'s creation, the 1964 New York World's Fair, was held without B.I.E. sanction or governance. While it lost money, it was attended by at least 50 million people and numerous countries participated that left behind some structures that still remain.

Universal Expositions

Since the start of the 21st century, Universal Expositions may occur every five years, lasting six months, on '5' and '0' ending years, i.e. Expo 2005marker in Aichimarker, Expo 2010marker in Shanghai, Expo 2015 in Milanmarker. Countries, international organizations, civil societies, and corporations are allowed to participate in Universal Expositions. The themes of Universal Expositions are broad and pan-humanistic in nature, and the participants must design and build their own pavilions, however, there are exceptions where the Expo Authority at a Universal Exposition constructs pavilion buildings or joint pavilion buildings to maximise participation and alleviate representation costs for developing nations. Examples of themes of recent Universal Expositions include "Man and His World" for Expo '67 in Montrealmarker, and "Discovery" for Seville Expo '92, and examples of joint pavilion buildings for a Universal Exposition is the Plaza of America at Seville's Expo '92 which was constructed by the Seville Expo Authority to maximize participation at the fair by South American nations. The Plaza of Africa at Seville was constructed for the same purpose.

Universal Expositions are also massive in scale, sometimes 300 or 400 hectares in size (Montreal's Expo 67 was 410 hectares, Osaka's Expo 70 was 330 hectares, Seville's Expo 92 was 215 hectares. Shanghai's Expo 2010 is 500 hectares), and Pavilions participating at a Universal Exposition are also large, sometimes 5,000 to 10,000 square metres in size, mini city blocks in themselves and sometimes more than several stories in height. (The Australia Pavilion for Shanghai 2010 is 5,000 square metres, the British Pavilion sits on a 6,000 square metres lot, as does the Canadian Pavilion. The flagship Chinese National Pavilion has 20,000 square metres of exhibition space.) Shanghai Expo 2010 will allow three types of Pavilion structures, (i) designed and constructed by the participant; (2) individual Pavilions designed and constructed by the Expo Authority for rent to the participant; (3) joint pavilions designed and constructed by the Expo Authority for rent to developing nations.

Also due to the fact that they are usually held in major centres of world population, Universal Expositions have been known to average 200,000 persons per day of visitors - or more - and some 50 to 70 million visitors during their six month duration. Montreal's Expo 67 attracted 54 million visitors, Osaka's Expo '70marker, 64 million visitors, and the recent Seville Expo '92, 41 million visitors. Shanghai's Expo 2010 is expected to attract 80 million visitors.

As a result, transport and other infrastructure at a Universal Exposition is an important concern (Seville's Universal Exposition of 1992 boasted cable car, monorail, boat, and bus) and the overall cost for hosting and being represented at a Universal Exposition is quite high, compared to the smaller International/Specialised scale Expositions.

International/Specialised Expositions

Since the start of the 21st Century, International/Specialised Expositions may occur between Universal Expositions and last from six weeks to three months in duration, i.e. Expo 2008marker in Zaragozamarker (Spainmarker), Expo 2012 in Yeosumarker (South Koreamarker). Countries, international organizations, civil societies, and corporations are allowed to participate but the exposition must have a precise character for its theme. An example of a theme of a recent International Specialised Exposition is the 1988 World Exposition, popularly known as World Expo 88 of Brisbane, Australiamarker, which had as its theme "Leisure in the Age of Technology". The pavilions are built by the hosts and not the participants, and there is no rent for pavilions. Nevertheless, the largest pavilion may be no larger than 1000 square meters, and the site of the fair must not exceed an area of twenty-five hectares. For this reason International/Specialised Expositions are cheaper to run than Universal Expositions, and more money is spent on content of the pavilion as opposed to its design. Nonetheless, there are exceptions where a participant designs and constructs its own Pavilion where ethnic work is involved, i.e. bush huts for islands of the South Pacific, a pagoda for Nepalmarker or Japanmarker or Thailandmarker, etc. A nation or organization does not need to be a member of the B.I.E. to be represented at a B.I.E. Exposition.

USA membership and representation

Only three world's fair events have been sanctioned by the B.I.E. in the United State since World War II: the Century 21 Exposition in Seattlemarker (1962), HemisFair '68 in San Antoniomarker, and the 1982 World's Fairmarker in Knoxville, Tennesseemarker. The USA had its membership of the B.I.E. withdrawn in June 2001. The cause was the non allocation of funds by the U.S. Congress for two years. Also, Congress is not allowed to allocate funds for representation of a United States Pavilion at a World Exposition. The new rulings state that the funding must be provided by private enterprise, with the representation being endorsed by Congress - not an automatic procedure. A recent example is the USA Pavilion at Seville's Expo '92, which was funded primarily by Amway, and endorsed by Congress. Another example is the present representation for Shanghai 2010, which is under scrutiny by Congress: although private enterprise funding has been speculated to have been secured, Congress is yet to decide as to whether it is in the United States interests that the planned representation can go ahead.

However, no concrete reason for failing to pay membership has been given by the United States Congress, sometimes hinting that it was political that the United States is now no longer a member of the B.I.E. The online news source "Ranger" reported, "Indeed, world's fairs were seen as a joke by many; the 1982 World's Fairmarker in Knoxville, Tennesseemarker, for instance, was the subject of ridicule in the 1996 episode of The Simpsons entitled 'Bart on the Road.' This bad impression, a drive to save taxpayer money and increasing nationalism in America resulted in then-Secretary of State Colin Powell withdrawing the United States from the body governing World's Fairs, the Bureau of International Expositions, in 2001."

In a letter from April 20, 2006, the secretary general of the B.I.E. said, "As you are aware, the United States government withdrew from the B.I.E. in June 2001. Citizens realize and would welcome the strong impact a world's fair can have on their city, state and country. It would be wonderful to, once again, attend an exhibition in the United States." Participation in the BIE is controlled by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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