The long-awaited Milan Expo has opened its doors to a big fanfare, a warning from the pope, and clashes between protesters and police in the streets.
For Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, the six-month technological exhibition and global fair is a huge prestigious event.
The Expo bears the slogans Feed The Planet, Energy for Life.
“Today is the start of “tomorrow”, first of all beginning with the contradictions of a planet that needs to be fed, but which witnesses the absurd imbalance of a billion people who continue to die of hunger and a billion people who suffer from eating either too much or the wrong food,” Matteo Renzi told the opening ceremony.
Pope Francis referred to the irony of a global spectacle devoted to sustainable development and feeding the poor, being dependent on corporate sponsorship.
Speaking by televised link-up to the opening ceremony, he said:
“The Expo is an ideal opportunity to globalise solidarity. Let us not waste it but rather value it fully.”
An inaugural concert was held on Thursday evening, the eve of opening time of the 2015 Milan World Expo.
More than 140 countries are taking part in the global fair, which organisers hope will attract some 20 million visitors.
For Renzi’s government it symbolises a brighter future, going hand in hand with the battle to modernise Italy’s economy and electoral system.
But there were battles of a different kind on the streets of Milan after the Expo’s opening.
Thick clouds of smoke from burning cars filled parts of the centre of Milan as groups of protesters, their faces masked against the fumes, threw stones and faced off against lines of police in riot gear.
Despite the talk of feeding the poor, a wide range of protesters see the event as a front for big business – and a symbol not of modernity, but of waste and corruption.