Mattarella, Renzi hail Expo four days from opening

Italian heads of state, govt express confidence and optimism

27 April, 18:33

    (By Michelle Ruelle).

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, APRIL 27 - Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Monday said Milan's Expo 2015 is "a great occasion and a precious opportunity for the country's system," while Italian Premier Matteo Renzi tweeted his approval of preparation in the run-up to Expo, just four days prior to its doors opening on Friday, May 1.

    Mattarella's Expo comments were delivered during a ceremony for Italian Quality Day, an event for the annual Leonardo Prizes awarded at the Quirinal Palace, where the president resides.

    The 73-year-old Palermo native, a former MP, twice a former minister and former deputy prime minister, spoke about the challenge of modernizing Italy and its diverse bureaucratic systems, urging "everyone to pitch in and do their part", and calling on politicians to combat corruption, which he said had become "intollerable." Corruption scandals have dogged preparations for Expo, which led to the appointment of the head of Italy's anti-corruption authority Raffaele Cantone to monitor contracts for structures and services.

    Renzi appointed Cantone last summer after a probe led to the arrest of several top Expo managers on suspicion of corruption in relation to preparations for the fair.

    On Monday, however, Renzi said that the "Expo wager has been won" and the pavilions are "beautiful", an achievement that seemed impossible "a year ago when we inherited delays and scandals". "Welcoming 20 million visitors will be our country's challenge in 2015. We can win it together, no one should feel left out". Renzi also took to Twitter on Monday to praise Italy's strength and resilience in the face of not only corruption scandals but also construction delays that have had naysayers speculating for months that the fair wouldn't be ready in time for opening day.

    "Expo. We're at 10 million tickets sold. The pavilions are really beautiful. How strong Italy is, not giving up.

    #thisisit," Renzi tweeted.

    This year will be the second time since 1906 that the city has hosted the Universal Exposition, and it will run from May 1-October 31 with the theme Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.

    (ANSAmed).

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