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The Big Opening of the Greatest Universal Exposition of all Times

2010. 24 August

Editor's note:

The 2010 World Expo has turned Shanghai into an international carnival. Xinhua News Agency is inviting participants and visitors to share their "postcards" from China during the Expo. Contribution can be impressions of the Expo or of Shanghai or other parts of China, as well as stories, written reflections, travelogues, comments or any other observations relating to the 2010 Expo.

( The following is a contribution from Dr. Daniel Barrios, director-general of the Development Information Network Association (Devnet), a Rome-based international NGO with Consultative Status Category 1 granted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

Barrios wrote this article in April, which would appear in his book "China Breeds a New Era," waiting to be published.

The Big Opening of the Greatest Universal Exposition of all Times

By Daniel Barrios

Shanghai. As I am writing this article the countdown will be reaching its end.

The Shanghai Expo 2010 will become a great historical event not only for being the first Expo held in a developing country, but also in the scope of transforming itself in the greatest and most spectacular World Expo ever organized by a country since May 1, 1851, when Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, organized the "Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Continents" in the Crystal Palace in London.

Shanghai, once called Paris of Orient; the area of Pudong that only 20 years before was a big marsh where thousands of fishermen died of malaria; the old colonial concessions where today the highest skyscrapers of the world are exhibited; Shanghai, where a small group of revolutionaries founded the Communist Party of China; the great metropolis of 20 million inhabitants on the shore of the Yangtze River -- which has been the big laboratory that started the process of "Reform and Opening-up" -- starting from May 1, it will convert itself to the world capital.

The Expo of Records

For six months Shanghai will be the host of the largest Expo (245 pavilions), the one with the highest number of visitors expected, the most expensive in history, the one with the most artistic offer with 23,000 scheduled shows, hundreds of painting exhibitions, including the highest quality show dedicated to the work of Caravaggio - the greatest exponent of Italian Barocco style -- ever exposed abroad.

During 185 days, 193 countries, international and regional organizations will expose their own technological advances, which will be an insight of the human being into progress and modernity.

In the same way as 150 years ago, the first Exposition in London -- when China was still a miserable nation submitted by foreign power -- symbolized the development of the Industrial Revolution and the following world supremacy of the British Kingdom.

As the 1970 Expo of Osaka marked Japan's ascent to the category of industrial power; today it is China's turn in exhibiting to the world one of the most fulfilled expressions of its irrefutable and unrestrained ascent.

Nobody was absent from the Appointment

From the United States to the tiny Republic of San Marino -- in spite of the crisis that still heavily mortgages its economies -- all the countries have invested hundreds of millions with the aim of being present to exhibit themselves in the market where no one can risk being absent.

It is not important if it is China who is financing Africa's participation, nor the efforts that the White House has made up to the last moments to obtain finance for its eagle-shaped pavilion by private companies, or if it is the countries themselves to invest in the event, like Saudi Arabia who invested 149 million U.S. dollars or Australia 100 million U.S. dollars, not even the cases of the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Spain, Japan, Poland, Germany, England, Italy and France, that due to the effect of their own recessions they have decided not to exceed the sum of 80 million U.S. dollars.

What is important is to be present, and also denying the wave of critics received by many governments for their excessive expenses. This kind of "Olympic of Economy and Commerce" is an unrepeatable opportunity for each country to show off to them and to demonstrate their respect to the organizing country.

Expo Dyes itself Green

Not only for China but also for western countries, the so called Green Expo, for its evident eco-friendly connotations, is a decisive turning point that places world attention to factors that determine, before anything, the present and future stability of the earth.

The creative plan and architecture of pavilions reflect the theme "Better City, Better Life." The over futuristic architecture of the Dutch Pavilion presents a Happy Street, where wealth is highlighted by the green colors of its houses. With a structure entirely covered in wood, Canada makes use of the most sophisticated computer techniques in which different sustainable urban development modalities and alternatives interact. The United States chose a story in which a young community leader organizes the reconstruction of her town of origin devastated by a natural catastrophe.

The 67-meter-high "Oriental Crown" is a perfect representation of today's China, a symbiosis of modernity and tradition, innovation and millennium-long culture.

If for Hemingway Paris was a party, for the dragon Shanghai is an Expo, the zenith of the opening process, the most emblematic meeting moment of the oriental power with the rest of the world, the great opportunity to show itself in front of the world; but at the same time it is an exceptional occasion for dialogue, for confronting ideas and culture, technology and innovations, products and services that China offers to the international community.

This is precisely the key to understand the true meaning of what Shanghai and the rest of the world will experience from May 1 to Oct. 31, 2010.