MILAN, 1st November, 2015 (WAM) — Six months after a highly-anticipated inauguration, the food-themed Milan Expo 2015 world’s fair wrapped up on Saturday, having attracted more than 21 million visitors, of which around one third were foreigners, Italian News Agency, ANSA, has reported.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella and other officials, including Vicente Loscertales, Secretary-General of the Bureau of International Expositions,BIE, the organisation in charge of overseeing world expos, attended the closing ceremony held at the Expo site.

Before declaring the conclusion of Expo Milano 2015, Mattarella said he was honoured to close an event which spread huge positive energy for the building of a better future for humanity and for the planet.

“Expo will leave us an important legacy born from dialogue and hope. Today it is not a farewell, but the beginning of a new civic commitment,” he declared. Loscertales defined the Milan event as “great success” for Italy and for all participant countries and organisations of the world.

He said the Milan Expo “succeeded in putting under the spotlight the critical themes of global nutrition, and encouraged discussion and exchanges between governments, populations and experts.”

Expo Milano 2015 “has made its place in the history of expos,” Loscertales highlighted.

Expo Sole Commissioner of the Italian Government, Giuseppe Sala, thanked the governments, organisations, companies and people of the world who participated in Milan Expo with “the spirit of unity which is a necessary condition for development.”

The event, which opened on May 1st under the banner, ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, has attracted a record 21 million visitors, well above the 20-million goal originally set by organisers.

The number included six to seven million foreigners, approximately one-third of the total, who travelled to Italy’s financial capital for the Expo, which focused on fighting world hunger, promoting food security and sustainable agriculture while celebrating worldwide culinary cultures.

Visitors have been steadily growing since the summer, organisers said. The total number of entrances in August alone was three million.

Meanwhile, September and October registered new peaks with 259,093 visitors on September 26th and a landmark 272,785 on October 10th, the highest one-day total since Expo opened. The week from October 5th to 11th also attracted a record 1,243,701people in seven days.

“Milan and Italy are at the heart of all this, along with a new organisational system combining public and private institutions,” the world’s fair sole commissioner and CEO, Giuseppe Sala, said on Thursday.

Expo’s success was first and foremost “a success of the people”, said Italian Agriculture Minister, Maurizio Martina. “The turning point was in people’s feelings, which this experience was able to generate.”

According to a preliminary survey on the event drafted by farmers’ association, Coldiretti, Italians spent a total of 2.3 billion euros at Expo and for Expo in expenses including travelling, accommodation, tickets and food.

Over 140 countries officially participated in the event, together with international organisations including the European Union and the United Nations.

A record 54 single-nation pavilions were built at the massive Rho Pero location hosting Expo, 12 more than Shanghai at the last Universal Exposition in 2010. In addition, nine “cluster” pavilions represented over 70 countries in a totally new concept which grouped them through a common category of food.

These categories included rice, cocoa and chocolate, coffee, fruits and legumes, spices, cereals and tubers, as well as the Bio-Mediterranean, island and dry areas.

The world’s fair was visited by 60 heads of state and government, including British Premier David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Spanish Premier, Mariano Rajoy.

There were over 300 institutional visits.

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, visited on October 16th, the United Nations World Food Day. Agriculture Minister, Maurizio Martina, gave Ban Ki-moon the Milan Charter, the crowning moment of the six-month event. The Charter, a global food practices initiative framed at the world’s fair and considered its legacy, has been signed by 1.1 million people, including institutions, governments and citizens. It was drafted to commit individuals, associations and companies that sign it to take responsibility through their actions and policies, while requesting governments and international institutions to implement rules and policies that ensure a fairer and more sustainable future across continents.

In a first in the history of Universal Expositions, the African continent was represented by 39 countries, or about one-third of participants. African countries with their own pavilions included Angola, Morocco and Sudan, while 36 others were represented in the clusters.

Over the course of six months, hundreds of school trips were also organised from all over Italy. A total of two million students visited Expo with educational programmes tailored for them on agriculture and agri-food, as well as on the fight against world hunger and food waste.

WAM/tfaham/Moran