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IRVINE : City Loses a Chance to Hobnob With the Elite

It was like a debutante ball that never happened.

That’s how officials say they feel about the cancellation of Urban Frontier-Tokyo ’96, an international exposition that was to include Irvine in its Cities of the World pavilion.

Irvine was the tiniest and least known of the invited guests on a list that included New York, Vienna, Barcelona, Istanbul, Prague and Cairo. The expo, to have run for seven months next year in Tokyo, was canceled by the city’s new governor after he took office recently.

Governor Yukio Aoshima’s reasoning was that paying the 14,000 workers who were building the exposition site and a monorail to shuttle visitors was a waste of taxpayers’ money.

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Tokyo officials announced Wednesday, however, that the city will spend $1 million to reimburse participants for money they have spent creating their displays. Irvine will get a share of that.

Stella Cardoza, international business coordinator for Irvine, said local officials were giddy with excitement when they were invited to participate with so many world-famous cities.

“You can see by the company we were keeping that it was a great honor to be invited,” she said.

The city’s challenge, she said, was to come up with a way to fill the 2,000-square-foot exposition space. European cities like Paris and Amsterdam could display their cultural history by filling their space with priceless works of art.

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“We don’t have any major works of art in Irvine,” Cardoza said.

Eventually, the city settled on a high-technology theme after expo organizers dubbed Irvine “The City of the Future.”

The idea was to draw on the high-tech resources of the city’s businesses to create interactive displays, a World Wide Web page about Irvine and a hologram of the city.

Cardoza said officials even considered having a little fun with the fact that their city would be the least-known city represented.

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“We thought it might be fun to make shirts that said, ‘Paris, Rome, Irvine’ and sell them there.”


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