CHICAGO -- The Bureau of International Expositions in Paris has approved a world's fair on the shores of Lake Michigan in 1992 -- an event Chicago says will prove to the world northern American cities are not decaying industrial wastelands.
The approval was only provisional, but Chicagoans shrugged off the technicality.
'We start today,' Mayor Jane M. Byrne said Thursday.
Thomas G. Ayers, the Chicago industrialist who captained Chicago's candidacy, said in Paris, 'We got what we came for. Chicago will have a world's fair in 1992.'
Technically, the fair is supposed to be a national celebration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the American continents. Accordingly, its theme will be the 'age of discovery.'
It appears as likely the theme will be to celebrate and promote Chicago, a city with a lusty and sometimes notorious reputation but also one of the most afflicted in the nation by the recession.
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'The fair will create 30,000 jobs directly. From them, new income and purchasing power will open additional thousands ... The hundreds of thousands of visitors to the fair on each of its 180 days will trigger hundreds of millions in new sales and taxes for the city.
'Here (the visitors) may take the pulse of America in this most American of U.S. cities.'
The mayor savored the means by which she said the fair could help regenerate Chicago's deteriorating downtown Loop, spark new mass transit projects, and leave a new and spacious park on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Last spring, Chicago's chances for landing a world's fair appeared low.
A group of Chicago business tycoons, headed by Ayers, promoted the fair as a way to demonstrate northern American cities are not 'going to hell.' They enlisted the city's most energetic promoters and prestigious architects.
But a world's fair must be aproved by the 36-nation BIE and its eye was reputed to be jaundiced.
In April, an inspection team from the BIE arrived in a skeptical mood. Ayers, Mrs. Byrne and the city gave them the full treatment - everything from a drink after the symphony with Sir Georg Solti, director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, to a chance to throw out the first balls at a Chicago Cubs baseball game.
At the end of the promotion, E.R.I. Allan of Great Britain, chairman of the BIE delegation, confided, 'When I came here, I thought your chances were pretty well nil. Your presentation, financial and otherwise, has convinced us.'
Final permission is expected at the BIE's next general assembly meeting in November or December.