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Event Profile

Expo 2010, the world’s biggest ever “universal class” Expo or World’s Fair, came to a close last month in Shanghai after a run of just six months. After the buzz of the Beijing Olympics, China was keen to showcase itself to the world once again. The event may not have attracted the same global media coverage, but it was an attendance hit, surpassing the ambitious target of 70 million visits. Here Park World

contributor Dr Jack Samuels offers his personal observations on some of the content and operational issues related to this awe-inspiring event, while on the facing page we talk to the team that helped create two of the expo’s 100-plus pavilions

OBSERVATIONS ON EXPO 2010 The biggest and costliest event of our time


Like all universal class expos, there was a mix of national pavilions, corporate pavilions and pavilions shared by several countries. In total, there were about 200 pavilion buildings on site at Expo 2010, and 350 buildings in total. One of the largest of was the African Union Pavilion, comprising 43 nations inside one enormous building with roughly the same area as two American football fields. The UK pavilion, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, was one of the most unusual. Nicknamed the “Seed Cathedral,” the pavilon was clad in 60,000 illuminated crystalline rods with a display designed to encourage visitors to recognise seeds from different plants.

LIVE ENTERTAINMENT Performed several times daily (instead of a night performance), the 30-minute spectacular Window of the City was in keeping with the overall Expo theme of “Better City, Better Life,” and a highlight for many visitors. This Cirque du Soleil-style production featured a cast of international performers flying around a stage featuring huge LED covered cubes projecting all kinds of pictures and spinning about to make numerous formations. A joint production of Shanghai Media & Entertainment Group and Taipei Arts International Association, the show was housed inside a 2,000-seat theatre.


Imagine a theme park that you can’t get round in less than three weeks. Expo 2010 was bigger than

all four Walt Disney World theme parks put together, and yet it was all on one site. The Beijing Olympics were but a microdot of an event in comparison. Everything was on a larger than life scale, for example rows and rows of restrooms and purified watering stations with over 20 taps each. As the site spanned two sides of the Huangpu River, an existing bridge and a tunnel were taken over and used to ferry guests to the Expo in special buses.

CROWDS AND CONGESTION The Chinese people flooded in day after day, with waits of several hours for many pavilions. With a final attendance of 72,780,200 - yes, over 72 million - long lines were inevitable. Daily attendance figures were in the hundreds of thousands, the sorts of numbers many of you reading this probably do in a whole year.


Sponsored by a variety of corporations including Disney, American Airlines and Coca-Cola, it was strange to see that the United States Pavilion had one of the weakest gifts shop in terms of inventory. As most of the merchandise was in fact made in China this seemed odd. The display of Disney items would surely have released any cast member from their job at a Disney park. Merchandising in other pavilions was extensive and gave you a good feel for the products from the respective countries. The array of official Expo 2010 merchandise was also extensive. Though made in China, it was priced according to Western standards.


The food services at Expo 2010 were simply amazing, with a wide range of culinary delights from many countries. Several Shanghai restaurants were represented, alongside American fast food chains like KFC. Food prices were a bargain by Western standards and drinks were generally priced at around RMB5 ($0.75/€0.55) in most locations. This was a blessing given the searing heat and humidity that greeted me during my four-day late summer visit.

TECHNOLOGICAL TRENDS The Information & Communications Pavilion, produced by BRC Imagination Arts 36

Every event of this kind seems to produce some recurring type of display or new technology. Something that initially caught my eye in the Private Enterprises Pavilion was later repeated on a smaller scale in several other pavilions. A show deploying hundreds of balls suspended on "invisible" strings that rose and fell to provide an endless variety of patterns provided a really impressive show. Perhaps the obsession with these balls had something to do with the ambitions of Expo planners. After all, it certainly took balls to put on this massive event!


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