(By Sandra Cordon). Rome, July 12 – The 2015 Milan Expo will raise the international profile not only of Italian culture, food and business, but of sports as well, say organizers. And the sort of global exposure the exhibition can give to sports may further translate into greater long-term financial support through endorsements and sponsorships, says Giuseppe Sala, commissioner for the Expo 2015. "We will also put sports on the Italian agenda for Expo 2015," Sala said in a recent speech to members of Italy's national Olympic committee. "We will build a schedule for sports enthusiasts who come to the Expo," and improve the visibility of many sports, he said. That could translate into euros and cents for sports if sponsors of Expo 2015 see the benefits of including more athletics and teams on their rosters, added Sala. "We have already large companies and partners who help provide equipment and services," said Sala. "We can reason with our sponsors, as of today we can start a path in common, because 2015 will be a special year for Italy". The Milan Expo, which runs from May 1 until October 31 2015, is expected to attract more than 20 million visitors and to be a massive money spinner for the city known as Italy's business capital. Preparations on a 1.1-million-square-meter site have been underway for years. The theme of the Expo 2015, "Feeding the Planet – Energy for Life", centers on fighting famine and malnutrition worldwide through sustainable and healthy development, global cooperation and new technology. The number of foreign delegations, heads of states, politicians and visitors from around the world – including at least 129 countries that have committed to participate – means Milan will be under spotlight during the exposition. "Think about what kind of opportunity this is for us," said Sala. "The economic effects of Expo should continue to be felt long after 2015," said Roberto Maroni, president of the Lombardy region where Milan is located. "Construction of important infrastructure now will benefit the region for years to come. "That includes adding to tourism infrastructure which will be enhanced this month by a new corporation to help promote regional tourism," said Maroni. Italian business and political leaders are pinning their hopes on spin-off economic benefits from Expo. Both the Italian president and premier have made it clear that they are counting on preparations for the Milan Expo as well as the event itself to help kick-start the recession-hit economy back into the black. "This is an extraordinary opportunity for new development in Italy, across north and south, and to overcome the crisis we're going through and that's making things difficult for the economy and society," President Giorgio Napolitano has said. Premier Enrico Letta, who joined Napolitano at the Royal Villa of Monza to launch pre-Expo events, echoed that sentiment. "We're tying the Expo to the goal of relaunching our country's economy, and this means everyone needs to commit," said the premier. "The Expo will be the heart of the recovery, and it will succeed as a symbol of national unity. "For this I guarantee the total commitment of the government". Italy last hosted a World's Fair in 1992 with a Christopher Columbus-themed Expo in Genoa. Expo 2015 is already close to hitting its target of having 130 countries sign up by the end of the year after the Comoros Islands became the 129th last month. Of those, 57 have already signed participation contracts for the Milan fair.