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2010 Shanghai World Expo concludes with 'astounding success'

Updated: 01 Nov 2010
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The closing ceremony of Shanghai World Expo 2010 is held at the Expo Cultural Center in the World Expo Park in Shanghai, east China, Oct. 31, 2010.  
 
Shanghai (Xinhua) - China staged a series of performances, parades and forums here Sunday to celebrate the end of the Shanghai World Expo, which International Exhibitions Bureau (BIE) President Jean-Pierre Lafon called an "astounding success."

The first of its kind staged in a developing country, the event attracted 246 participating countries and international organizations and 73 million visitors. Both figures are records in the history of expos, the first of which was held in London in 1851.

On an area of 5.28 square kilometers, the Expo Site has become a global village where people can not only see rare cultural treasures from around the world -- the bronze chariot and horse sculpture from China's Warring States period, the statue of Athena from Greece and French impressionist masterpieces, for example -- but also get a taste of the diversity of the world's cultures through more than 20,000 cultural events.

The gala is eyed in China as another event of national splendor after the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games showcased China's status as an economic and political power to the world.

It is also a milestone in both economic and social terms, bringing attention to the future of the planet, which is battling with poverty, war, pollution and energy shortages.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao declared the closure of the Expo at a ceremony Sunday evening. Before that, he said at the Summit Forum on the sidelines of the Expo the success of the Expo has boosted China's confidence and resolve to pursue reform and opening up.

"The Expo has brought together the Chinese people wishing to learn more about the world and foreign friends wishing to know more about China. Thanks to the Expo, they have forged a strong bond of friendship," said the Premier. 
 
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the Expo a "remarkable, even historic event."

"I hope that China will be an urban pioneer," he said, adding that he looks forward to working closely with China on the sustainable development agenda.

CHINESE AS CITIZENS OF THE GLOBAL VILLAGE

The 184-day event provided a rare opportunity for Chinese people to experience the world with their own eyes and bodies. Although the number of overseas-bound Chinese tourists rose to 47.76 million last year, more than 200 times that of 30 years ago, most Chinese still have no access to first-hand foreign information.

Mei Haixing, 59, a retired teacher from a Shanghai middle school, has visited the Expo more than 30 times. He has written a 400-page diary to record his precious Expo memories. The diary has pictures, souvenirs and signatures from different pavilion curators.

"The Expo is like a huge museum of the world's different cultures," he said.

The Chinese are not satisfied with their current level of knowledge and access to entertainment, according to Sheng Banghe, a sociologist with the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

"At first, I jeered those who lined up to get a stamp in their Expo passports. Now I understand their enthusiasm. Many Chinese have no chance of obtaining a real passport, let alone receive visa stamps from other countries," said Zhang Wei, an editor at China Youth Daily.

Pavilions like the French "Sensual City" and the Italian "City of Man" that centered on an individual's free and vigorous lifestyle have inspired the Chinese to dream of an even rosier future. 
 
Some migrant workers (poor farmers who move to the cities to work) visited the Expo. Liu Huafeng, a construction worker from central China's Henan Province, said he found out how wonderful urban life can be after visiting the Expo.

The Expo will have a profound influence on Chinese, who have learned the way to behave as citizens of the global village, including queuing in orderly lines.

The organizers said they have gained experience in public governance by interacting with visitors over the Expo-period.

At the beginning of the Expo, which opened on May 1, just 200,000 visitors had caused headaches for the organizers. But they successfully dealt a record single-day attendance of 1.03 million on Oct. 16.

With more umbrellas, fences, fans, signs, and wheelchairs, facilities and service at the Expo site greatly improved.

"The changes were made in response to visitors' complaints and suggestions," said Qian Bojin, director of the Expo visitors' service center.

BECOMING MORE FAMILIAR WITH CHINA

The Expo also offered the world, still extricating itself from the shadows of the financial crisis, a window through which it could better observe and understand China, a poor, sometimes mysterious country with a gigantic world presence.

The Expo was especially noteworthy for a number of reasons.

For the first time in 30 years, Russia constructed its expo pavilion rather than renting one from the host country; the U.S. overcame its difficulties and raised enough funds, completing the construction work of its pavilion in time; the European Union's participation was its first at a World Expo outside Europe; China helped build the African Joint Pavilion for 42 African countries and the African Union to achieve a collective presence at the Expo.

Iceland managed to take part even after being shaken by the global financial crisis and the volcanic eruption that disrupted air traffic over Europe in April.

Haflidi Savvarsson, Iceland Pavilion Director, said his country's pavilion was run in cooperation with 80 Icelandic companies hoping to do business in China, a big number considering the size of the country.

"I am very confident we have managed to plant a little seed in the minds of our Chinese and overseas visitors and this little seed will eventually grow and tell them: I will go and visit Iceland," he said.

David Percival, head of Inward Investment, China, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), said during the Expo the UKTI ran the biggest program of commercial events ever in a single country with more than 150 events.

He said his team is working on 200 Chinese investment projects, most of which are in new sectors such as digital content and new energy sources.

Krestine Nielsen, Denmark Pavilion staff member, sang the Chinese folk song "What a Beautiful Jasmine" with some 150 curators and staff at the closing ceremony. She donned a red skirt dotted with Chinese characters for "Little Mermaid" for the performance. Coming to the Expo was the first time the 22-year-old had left her small town of Skanderborg.

"I kept saying 'Stamping on the second floor, riding bicycles on the third' in Chinese to guide the visitors every day. I found great difference between Chinese culture and that of my own. I am willing to spend time to understand China," she said.
 
SOLUTIONS BEYOND TECHNOLOGIES
 
The Expo, with the theme "Better City, Better Life," has laid out new criteria for the urbanization process in the future. According to the organizers, half of the population of the planet now lives in cities.

Scientific innovation will continue to play a major role in solving urban problems, just as Expos over the last century have demonstrated. Many people believe an ideal society can only be achieved through scientific and technological development.

Developed countries brought their high-end technologies to the Expo, including intelligent cars, clean energy, nanotechnology and smart medical devices.

Still, Japanese Pavilion director Noriyoshi Ehara said that science and technology are not the ultimate means to solve problems. That is why the theme of the Expo gradually changed from focusing on economic development to environmental protection, he said.

"We are convinced that it is necessary to re-examine the relationship between people, cities and our planet," read the Shanghai Declaration made by leaders attending the Expo Summit Forum Sunday.

Many pavilions attempted to find solutions to problems using social and moral means, not technology. The U.S. and Japanese Pavilions both stressed cooperation and team work while the Indian and German Pavilions focused on "balance." The Cote d'Ivoire Pavilion advocated the integration of cultures. At the China Pavilion, visitors saw the possibility of realizing sustainable development through the borrowing of ideas from the country's traditional wisdom in order to bridge the gap between mankind and nature.

The Shanghai Declaration said that "in tackling the challenges of urban development, innovation offers solutions and the concept of 'Cities of Harmony' embodies our dreams."

Volunteer Wang Qianhe, a junior at Shanghai's Donghua University, said it was difficult to say goodbye to the Expo. More than two million people from home and abroad volunteered for the Expo, of whom 80,000 worked at the Expo site.

However, to Wang's delight, a permanent building, the Expo 2010 Museum, will be built in Shanghai to preserve the Expo's glory. More than 200 Expo participants have already expressed willingness to donate exhibits to the 20,000-square-meter museum.

The next Expo will be held in Milan, Italy, in 2015.

BIE President Lafon said the spirit of the Shanghai Expo will live on long after its closing.

"The light of the Shanghai World Expo will continue to shine long into the future."

(Xinhua reporters Ji Ming, Cheng Yunjie, Zhao Ying, Ma Shukun and Liu Gang contributed to the story.) 
 
SOURCE: Xinhuanet
 
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