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More Than 433,000 Visitors on First Weekend

2010. 3 May

by Bloomberg
( More than 433,000 people visited Shanghai’s $44 billion World Expo on its first weekend, enduring temperatures as high as 86 degrees Fahrenheit as they stood in queues that were as long as three hours for some exhibits.

More than 225,000 visitors streamed into the expo yesterday, 17,900 more than the 207,700 people that toured the 5.3 square- kilometer (3.3 square-mile) park on May 1, the first day the event was open to the public.

“This is like Disneyland except that the queues are much longer,” said Chen Zihui, a 45-year old beauty shop owner who traveled from the southern city of Guangzhou with 30 family members who all wore matching red t-shirts to the expo’s opening. “In two hours, we only managed to get into one pavilion.”

China’s richest city estimates 70 million people will visit the six-month long event, more than 10-times the number who traveled to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. To ensure smooth operations for the fair, Shanghai has deployed armed police to patrol the Expo park, restricted sales of knives and given local residents a five-day holiday through May 4, during which they’ve been asked to stay at home as much as possible.

Paramilitary police guided visitors through the expo’s gates with bullhorns as a parade of floats decked in flowers and costumed dancers made its way through the park.

Retired Shanghai resident Gen Changrong, 70, and his 68- year old wife gave up on visiting the U.S. and Spanish pavilions after seeing the long queues. They instead visited the Africa, Serbia and Lithuania pavilions because there were no lines, said Gen, who carried a bag of bread, apples and empty water bottles.

“We would have been totally exhausted if we tried to join the queue,” he said. “It’s too much for seniors.”

China Pavilion

Tickets to enter the red China pavilion named “The Crown of the East” on May 1 were gone before 9 a.m. local time. Pavilion officials yesterday handed out 50,000 of the free passes, China News Service reported. Arguments broke out between police and visitors barred from the China pavilion after they failed to obtain passes, Shanghai’s Dragon TV reported.

The broadcaster, a unit of government-owned Shanghai Media Group, also called on visitors to obey rules set out by expo organizers as it showed footage of people cutting in line, trash littering the grounds and visitors circumventing a barrier to pick flowers off a tree on display.

Fireworks, Lasers

Chinese President Hu Jintao officially opened the expo on April 30 at an evening ceremony marked by fireworks, a laser show and performances by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and martial-arts film star Jackie Chan. Visiting leaders including French President Nicolas Sarkozy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso watched the display from the expo site along the shores of the Huangpu river.

Police escorted motorcades for visiting officials across the city, forcing traffic to a halt along Shanghai’s Yanan elevated highway and in the Lujiazui financial district. Hundreds of tourists took pictures and bought food from street vendors in front of the city’s 1,535-feet tall Oriental Pearl Tower, which staged song and dances shows on its plaza.

Shanghai’s hotel occupancy level was 72 percent on May 1, a 12 percentage point increase from April 30, state broadcaster China Central Television reported.

“The buildings are even more impressive than on TV,” said 40-year old Li Ge as she waited in line on opening day to visit the U.K. pavilion. She had taken a four-hour train ride from the city on Hefei with her two sisters and nephew to visit the expo. “We’re very excited, but there’re just too many people.”

Giant Mechanical Baby

Exhibits at the Shanghai expo include a giant mechanical baby at the Spanish pavilion, ostrich meat wraps at the Africa hall, Italian artisans making shoes by hand and beer served outside the German pavilion.

World expos began with the 1851 World’s Fair in London’s Crystal Palace that showcased the wealth and technological prowess of Europe’s industrialized nations.

They’ve led to the construction of iconic structures, including the Eiffel Tower and Seattle’s Space Needle. The events are now divided into so-called Universal Expos, such as the one in Shanghai, and smaller, more specialized exhibitions.

“I went to the expo in Hanover and this one here is so much nicer,” said Rufus Brevett, 19, a student from the U.K. “It’s massive.” Hanover, Germany hosted the 2000 expo.

--Fan Wenxin, Yang Huiwen in Shanghai, with assistance from Stephanie Wong, Chua Kong Ho, Allen Wan and Luo Jun. Editors: John Liu, Gregory Turk

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bruce Grant at