Leadership hiccup in Expo '98 countdown

The countdown towards the opening of Expo '98 - the last World's Fair before the millennium - ticks by remorselessly on a giant digital clock near Lisbon airport. But the countdown skipped a beat last week when the expo's boss, Antonio Cardoso e Cunha, unexpectedly resigned amidst a bitter political row, forcing Portugal's Prime Minister, Antonio Guterres, to take emergency action to defuse the crisis.

The expo, to open on 22 May next year, will make the most dramatic transformation to the Portuguese capital since the city was devastated in 1755 by an earthquake and tidal wave. The site, along three miles of derelict waterfront, is Europe's biggest urban project, and any stumble on the race to completion threatens disaster.

Mr Cardoso's walkout was prompted by government anxiety over spiralling costs. Expo authorities promise specific figures later this week, but press reports say that the fair is 7 per cent over budget. Political and personal antagonisms flared between the conservative former European commissioner and the Socialist government. Mr Cardoso, head of Expo '98 since 1992, was confirmed in his post when the Socialists ousted the conservative Social Democrat government in October 1995. They said a change in top management could jeopardise the project's success. But in his resignation letter, reproduced by Lisbon newspapers this week, Mr Cardoso spoke bitterly of having lost the confidence of ministers and facing opposition that amounted to sabotage.

The crunch came in his speech to MPs on 17 January, answering queries from a parliamentary committee set up last year to scrutinise the finances of the fair. Mr Cardoso, defending his record, fatally joked that he deserved a statue in honour of his services.

The minister responsible, Mr Guterres's right-hand man, Antonio Vitorino, replied with a laugh that he had once carried Mr Cardoso as a babe in arms: "I beg him not to turn into a statue because I couldn't bear the weight." No one, he added, was irreplaceable. Crushed by the humiliating riposte, Mr Cardoso quit four days later, along with a phalanx of supporters.

Mr Guterres, in Rome at the time, approached a number of candidates before his close friend, Jose Torres Campos, 64, head of the state roads authority, accepted the job. Announcing Mr Torres Campos's appointment last Thursday, Mr Guterres stressed the need to cut costs.

Some investors privately suspect that the disruption could end up costing even more. But one entrepreneur said yesterday: "I am sure the government will pull out the stops to make Expo '98 open on time whatever the cost, so it does not lose face". He regretted the departure of Mr Cardoso who, he said, had the dynamism "to bulldoze things through".

The 840-acre site is heaving with 5,000 workers and convoys of trucks and excavators giving shape to exhibition halls, apartments and a huge rail and metro interchange designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The first fish for the oceanarium arrived this week,and the new 18km bridge over the Tagus, built by a British-led consortium, is threading across the water.

A spokesman yesterday could not predict the fallout from the upset. He added, however, that polls show massive popular enthusiasm for the venture which was more or less on schedule, "although we have no time to lose".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living