11/22/2013 08:57 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Izmir: A Universal Candidate

A Universal Exhibition is an appointment in both time and space.

An appointment in time, and ahead of its time, like all Expos on record -- take the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle as an example.

And an appointment in space, because the cities chosen to host these global events are always the beacons of a geographical and economic paradigm change -- take the choice of Saint Louis to host the 1904 World's Fair, which amplified and revealed the spread of the industrial revolution in the United States from the East Coast to the Mid West.

Izmir, bidding to host the 2020 World Expo in competition with Dubai, Sao Paulo and Yekaterinburg, has all the qualities required to rise to the challenge of this dual appointment.
Izmir is the second biggest city in modern Turkey, and also one of the most highly industrialized.

Any description of Izmir's role must focus on the booming growth of the whole Turkish economy which is similar to economic growth in China two years ago. Its dynamism and openness is a perfect example of how a nation that will soon have 80 million citizens can move collectively into an era of game-changing modernity.

Izmir has enjoyed a fabulous history, and ahead lies a future no less glorious for the city that has been a link between East and West from distant antiquity to recent times.

An abundance of possessions is not always a problem. Ancient Smyrna was known to all Greek schoolchildren, who learned that it was the birth-place of the great Homer. Throughout the centuries, Smyrna's bright star never waned. Risen to turn into one of the major trading and cultural centers of the Eastern Mediterranean several centuries before the fall of Constantinople, under its new Turkish name of Izmir it was the starting point of the Silk Road from the Mediterranean to China. Bringing Marseille into contact with Isfahan, Izmir became one of the rare staging points through which East and West could meet and learn to like and understand each other.

Against a background of historical ebb and flow, Izmir has never lost its openness to the wider world, its European awareness and its political liberalism.

Nowadays Izmir has chosen the theme of "Health for All" in line with its centuries-old tradition of medical progress. In ancient Greece this region was the meeting-place for traditional eastern medicine and an awakening Hellenic rationalism, the epicenter from which modern medicine would spring under the leadership of Hippocrates, illustrious citizen of Kos, 90km from Izmir. And the Izmir of today continues this tradition of medical advance. As a World Health Organization Healthy City, Izmir is the seat of two of the five greatest schools of medicine in Turkey, and as the city with the longest life expectancy in Turkey is a torch-bearer for a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Rooted in history, a mix of Western and Middle-Eastern cultures, a link between past and present, between tradition and modernity, a focus of scientific progress and human and economic benefits for the region and for the world: surely Izmir displays all the qualities of a universal candidate?