Expo Milano 2015 Commissioner Giuseppe Sala emerged the winner in Milan’s center-left primaries for mayor last Sunday, garnering 25,600 votes, or 42.2 percent. Current Vice Mayor Francesca Balzani came in second with 33.9 percent, while Pierfrancesco Majorino was a distant third with 23 percent.
Sala is 57 years old and was born in Monza, north of Milan. Educated at Bocconi, he spent many years working for Pirelli and Telecom Italia before being selected in 2009 by former Mayor Letizia Moratti to serve as Director General of Milan. Following a year and half in this position, Moratti nominated him to undertake the monumental task of getting Milan’s World Fair off the ground, which was clouded with controversy and claims of corruption from the beginning. In 2013, Prime Minister Enrico Letta named Sala sole commissioner of the Expo in order to avoid further slowdowns, seeing him as the means of guaranteeing “fluidity and efficiency” in the marketing and development process.
While the Expo opened in May 2015 with many pavilions only partially completed and inspired violent protests in downtown Milan, it began to gain favor as major international leaders and celebrities were drawn in. The last two months of the Fair saw tremendous crowds, numbering up to 250,000 people per day at times. It is estimated that 21.5 million people visited the Expo from May to October, which was slightly under the 24 million initially anticipated. The numbers for the event have yet to be fully accounted for, but last month Sala stated that Expo earnings were 736 million Euro ($835 million), with operating costs of 721 million ($818 million). Overall the Fair was deemed to be a success due to Sala’s leadership, which was also seen as a boost both at home and abroad for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the Partito Democratico.
Sala said on election night that it was “not an easy journey, so I am very happy…I think it is an excellent result.” The former commissioner declared his candidacy last December, and now has four months to campaign before the general election on June 12th. On the other end of the political spectrum, the center-right has nominated Stefano Parisi, who served as city manager of Milan under Mayor Gabriele Albertini from 1997 to 2000.