Final countdown to Shanghai World Expo 2010

Updated: 30 Apr 2010
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The countdown is on for the opening of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai tonight
Last minute preparations are underway for the opening ceremony for the World Expo, in Shanghai, China. China's leaders have said the Expo is the most important event to be staged in the country in 2010, and security is tight.
More than 190 countries have registered to participate in the event - with 70 million visitors expected to attend. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Jose Manuel Barrosso are amongst the world leaders who are visiting the event.
It's a meant to be a multi-billion pound effort to promote commerce, the most expensive world fair in history.  
Many of their national pavilions have now been unveiled - and they certainly make Britain's incomprehensible 'seed cathedral', more popularly known as the £25million pin cushion, stand out a little less.
Representing... growth? Visitors to the Spanish pavilion are greeted by a gigantic animated baby
And from the outside: Could the Spanish pavilion represent a pregnant woman lying on her back?
China hopes that the Expo, due to be opened on Friday, will be an opportunity to assert its growing global clout and show off the fruits of its economic transformation.
Shanghai, already China's richest and most glamorous city, has made an unprecedented effort to impress with its Expo, a world fair which has in recent years largely dropped off the world's radar.
The new roads and subway lines which criss-cross the city have been purpose built not only for Shanghai's future growth, but also to transport the 70 million mainly Chinese who will visit during the six-month extravaganza.
China says it has spent $4.2 billion on the Expo - double what it spent at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
 Not so strange now: Britain's £25million Seed Cathedral 
Display of bunny: The Macau pavilion, which appears to resemble a Trojan Bunny
Technology: The South Korean pavilion looks like the inside of a computer
It is the most expensive and largest Expo to date, and local media have reported the true cost is closer to $58 billion, including infrastructure.
'This is a very important moment. We have made preparations for years,' Hong Hao, Deputy General for the Expo, said.
Shanghai wants to put the World Expo back on the world stage as the first developing country to host one, encouraging countries large and small to take the Expo seriously and use it as a means to improve fractured foreign ties and increase trade.
Giant Rubik's Cube: The Serbian pavilion
China's relations with the outside world have been strained of late, with issues like the value of the yuan currency, a fight over censorship with Google and the trial of four Rio Tinto executives casting a pall over the country's efforts to present itself as a respected international player.
Leaders including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso will be at Friday's opening ceremony.
Smaller countries, such as Israel, are also making efforts to engage China through the Expo, despite the shadow cast by the financial crisis.
Standing out: The Polish pavilion, a mosaic of national symbols
The dome of the India pavilion rises above a plain base
Disco: The interior of the State Grid Pavilion
Yaffa Ben-Ari, deputy commissioner general of Israel for the Shanghai World Expo, said the Jewish state aimed to boost cooperation through the event.
It was the first time, he said, that Israel had built its own pavilion, with the government allocating a budget of $12 million for the project.
Despite unremitting propaganda in state media about how great the Expo will be, not all the country pavilions will be finished in time for Friday's opening. 
Organisers are also trying to iron out teething problems for handling large crowds after initial trial days received widespread complaints from tired, hungry visitors.
Performers demonstrate a futuristic electric car seat that changes angles with the speed of the vehicle, part of the World Expo
Dancers rehearse their performance for the Expo
Still, the financial hub is abuzz with Expo fever. The blue molar-shaped 'Haibao' mascot adorns every street corner, bus stop and subway station.
'Most people are very excited,' said Shanghai resident Si Yudan, 30, brushing off all the inconveniences of seemingly endless renovations and building projects to spruce up the city.
Security has been stepped up, with subway passengers forced to go through airport-style bag checks.
Analysts, however, say a terror attack is unlikely due to the relatively low global profile of the Expo.
'Of more concern would be bird flu or H1N1. If that breaks out on site, how will they manage to prevent it spreading and how will they attempt to quarantine such a large number of people?' said Greg Hallahan, regional director at business risk consultancy PSA Group in Shanghai. 
Left: a futuristic transport system is displayed at the Expo
Right: a visitor takes a picture of a 3-D Terracotta Warrior, inside the Aurora pavilion at the Expo 
The project has not been without its detractors. Rights groups have complained about evictions of residents to make way for the two spectacular main Expo sites on either side of the murky Huangpu River.
Some Chinese have also wondered why the country, with its growing rich-poor gap, severe environmental and other problems is spending so much on an event which lacks an Olympics' cachet.
 'Our living costs are five times yours but our salaries are one fifth of yours. Yet we survived and we are still joyfully and happily welcoming friends from all around the world,' wrote popular Shanghai blogger Han Han, with a strong sense of irony.
If you travel from Xiamen, contact Apple Travel for Shanghai Expo tickets by following the information below:
Apple Travel Xiamen Office (Main Office)
Address Shop 18-20,Guanren Rd (behind the Marco Polo Hotel)
361006 Xiamen,
Fujian Province, China
Reservations: (86-592)-5074177 
Fax: (86-592)-5052948
Office Hours: Mon. - Fri. 08:30-18:00 Sat. 09:00-17:00 Sun. 13:00-17:00
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