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Expo pavilion will be French gift to China

2010. 7 January

Editor's Note:
( As the first country to confirm its participation in the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, France has made large-scale plans for its exhibition. But the French pavilion will be one among 12 super-pavilions of 6,000 square meters, competing for people's attention. Global Times reporter Lin Lin interviewed Franck Serrano(Serrano),director of the pavilion, on what makes the French contribution to the Expo special.

GT: About 50 percent of France's exhibition funds were planned to be supplied by French corporations, which have been badly impacted by the financial crisis. Will France's exhibition budget be cut?

Serrano: Not a penny of the 50 million euro ($74.4 million) budget will be cut.

Nine corporations previously agreed to fund the Expo, and, despite the financial crisis, we were able to obtain 10 million euros ($14.88 million) from them.

The French government has promised to cover the rest of the funds, so the budget will not be cut because of insufficient corporate sponsorship.

The French government places a great deal of weight on the Expo. If you look at the model of the French pavilion in front of the Elysée Palace, the French President's residence, you will see how important the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai is to French people.

We believe that the more difficulties we encounter, the more we need global events, like the Expo, to shore up our confidence that we will conquer the financial crisis.

It's not easy for so many countries and regions to get together and take part in an event. We may not be able to find such a good opportunity for another decade.

Moreover, it will be the first time that the Expo is held in a developing country. Plus the host country this time will be China, one of the greatest countries and a world leader in the 21st century.

We are very glad to exhibit in such a country, so we will certainly provide genuine support.

GT: French President Nicolas Sarkozy has showed a keen interest in the contents of the French pavilion, and authorized the "Sensual City" design scheme for it. He will attend the Expo in person on June 21. Could you explain to us the reasons for his interest?

Serrano: France has hosted more World Expos than any other nation, so the event is very special to us.

When China was bidding for the World Expo 2010, then-President Jacques Chirac offered great support.

After Sarkozy assumed office, he gave advice to the exhibition from the very beginning, and chose the idea of "Sensual City" from 49 options.

When Sarkozy visited China in 2007, he paid a special visit to the Shanghai World Expo Garden.

He knows that Chinese people like French actor Alain Delon, so he invited Delon to be the 2010 World Expo's ambassador for France.

He also asked us to place a television station in the pavilion to introduce people to French traditions and customs.

Sarkozy also wished that the pavilion could be retained after the Shanghai World Expo as a gift to the Chinese people.

Therefore, unlike some other temporary pavilions, the French pavilion has been built and decorated to be a permanent building from the beginning.

GT: Many international participants, like the UK, Germany and Japan, are competing for attention at the Expo. What special features can France offer?

Serrano: According to our research, the French pavilion is the most anticipated at the Expo, save for the Chinese and US pavilions.

Although we regard the World Expo as a happy party, and do not intend to compete to gain the most visitors, we still expect to attract one-seventh of all the visitors, so around 10 million total.

To surprise our visitors, France Pavilion will exhibit seven national art treasures from the Orsay Museum, consisting of six oil paintings and one sculpture by Rodin.

These treasures have been individually exhibited in New York and Tokyo, but have never left France together.

What's more, this time they will be exhibited for as long as six months. It's unprecedented that the director of Orsay Museum allowed them to be lent out together at the same time.

Actually, exhibiting these treasures is a bit of a chore for me, since there are many problems with insurance, transport, management and security.

Finally we decided to transport them by planes separately, as it will be too risky to transport them together, so we have to use seven planes.

GT: Many countries are using celebrities famous in China to promote their pavilions, such as Canada's use of Mark Rowswell, better known as "Dashan," to promote the Canada pavilion. Is France doing this, or otherwise setting out to appeal to Chinese sensibilities?

Serrano: Of course. It is out of consideration of Alain Delon's fame in China that we invited him to be the 2010 World Expo's ambassador for France.

His film Zorro attracted 800 million Chinese viewers. He has come to China many times, and likes the country. He will host a reality show at the television station in France Pavilion, and will be a guide for Chinese guests.

The French Pavilion merges French aesthetics and Chinese elements.

Since facing the south is usual for Chinese buildings, we put the door of the French pavilion to the south to show our respect for Chinese tradition.

The design of the viewing platform perpendicular to the water surface is derived from the Beijing siheyuan (a traditional Chinese courtyard with houses on four sides).

We also prepared a "French Pavilion" perfume for the Expo, adding the fragrance of the Shanghai city flower, white magnolia, into it.

GT: What is the popular French attitude toward the Expo?

Serrano: Some countries may think that the Expo is outdated and their participation in it meaningless, but this is certainly not the case in France.

Beijing's success in hosting the 2008 Olympic Games publicized China's true image to French people.

Before that, most French people knew little about China. None of the four daily newspapers in France reported much about China.

However, the successful Olympic Games immediately made the French interested in China.

Now, the World Expo follows, and it will widen the French people's knowledge of China.

Through the World Expo 2010, they can see the changes in Shanghai and China.

In order to raise people's interest, since last September French televisions have run a program on the Expo every week. Many of my friends have told me that they certainly will come to Shanghai for the World Expo.