Europe

Milan Expo: Italy opens major 'feeding the planet' fair

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi delivers a speech on the occasion of the official opening of the Milan Expo 2015 in Milan, Italy, 1 May 2015 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi praised the workers who had created the exhibition

A major global commercial fair - Milan Expo 2015 - has opened in northern Italy with food as the theme.

Italy, stuck in recession, hopes the fair will be a big money-spinner. Ten million tickets have been sold already for the six-month event.

But shortly after the opening, protesters in Milan clashed with police, who responded with tear gas.

Representatives of 145 countries are in the city for the fair, which boasts 54 national pavilions at a sprawling site.

The food theme focuses on nutrition and combating hunger globally. But it is also a showcase for Italian cuisine.

Torched

The exhibition has already been marred by scandal after several officials in the organising body were arrested for corruption.

And violence broke out on Friday as dozens of people protesting against the Expo torched cars and broke shops windows.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Thick clouds of smoke from burning cars filled parts of the city centre on Friday

Some groups have criticised the fair, calling it a symbol of big business interests, and held protests.

There was an anti-globalisation march by students in Milan on Thursday.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The glitzy opening ceremony featured a fly-past by the Frecce Tricolore aerobatic team
Image copyright AFP
Image caption People holding sign reading "no Expo" demonstrated in downtown Milan on Friday

Pope Francis, who spoke via a televised link-up to the opening ceremony, said he wanted every person who visited the Expo to think of the "faces of millions of people who are hungry today".

Meanwhile Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said: "Today it is as though Italy is embracing the world."

Italy hopes the fair, covering a one million sq m (10.7m sq ft) site, will attract some 20 million visitors and generate revenues of about $10bn (£5.6bn; €8.9bn).

Image copyright AFP
Image caption China's exhibit highlights the country's success in conquering food shortages
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Israel focuses on the transformation of arid soil into fertile land
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Italy's pavilion is called "the nursery"
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A central feature is Italy's Tree of Life

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