Over the next two days, representatives of the USA pavilion for Expo 2010 (ie, the 2010 World’s Fair) will be rolling-out the USA’s building and programming for the event, to open May 1. Tomorrow, Tuesday, media will have the opportunity to interview members of BRC Imagination Arts, the company that produced the “4-D” film to be shown inside of the pavilion. And on Wednesday, the pavilion and the film will be presented to invited media at noon. In addition, Commissioner General Jose Villarreal will submit to a Q & A. I have been invited to attend the Wednesday event, and I plan to report on it at Shanghai Scrap, and elsewhere, in the hours following. This post, I hope, will be of use to the other reporters who will join me on Wednesday, and precede me tomorrow.
As regular readers know, for the last year I’ve written extensively about the travails of the USA pavilion at Expo 2010, beginning with this March 2009 piece in the Atlantic, through more than a dozen blog posts, and a March 2010 piece in Foreign Policy. At the heart of my reporting and critique has been this: the individuals whom the US State Department entrusted – in the words of the Department itself – to “design, instruct, install, and manage a U.S. Government pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World’s Fair and to raise all funding required for the project” – were chosen in a no-bid non-competitive process that wasn’t open to the public, and which resulted in a woefully un-qualified USA pavilion team that has, over the last two years, caused diplomatic tensions with China, failed at its chartered tasks and – most significantly – built a sub-standard pavilion that won’t necessarily embarrass the United States, but certainly won’t show it in its best light, either.
Alas, the State Department, the Commerce Department, and the individuals associated with Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc., the non-profit serving as the State Department’s designated pavilion, have been reluctant to answer questions about the selection process and have, at various points, lied about it. Nonetheless, perseverance pays off, and last month the State Department, at the request of a concerned citizen, and with the encouragement of Jose Villarreal, the pavilion’s Commissioner General, released several previously secret documents which illuminate previously murky aspects of the USA pavilion selection process. I’m going to use this post to set the context for these documents, present excerpts from them, draw some conclusions, and then – at the end – post them for the use of anyone interested in how the USA wound up with the pavilion that’s going to be presented to the media tomorrow and Wednesday.
So let’s get to it.