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February 13, 2010

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A slam dunk for Shanghai

AS a native Shanghainese, the city's successful World Expo bid and the coming exhibition of civilizations across the world have filled me with pride. It is a great honor for me, as an image ambassador for World Expo 2010 Shanghai China, to contribute to the success of this magnificent event and to witness the convergence of progress in my motherland with development across the world.

I still remember how I was amazed by my first visit to a World Expo. That was Expo Aichi in Japan. The Chinese red of the China Pavilion was dazzling, and I also remember being awed by the super-sized display screen and a Russian exhibit of the remains of a mammoth frozen in death for 18,000 years. That visit was really an eye-opener for me.

As a sportsman, I cannot help but compare the Olympic Games and World Expos. The former is an athletic event that mostly attracts sports fans, while the latter looks rather like a large recreational exposition.

At a World Expo, participating countries exhibit their own advanced technologies and innovations. Every visitor, no matter whether his tastes run to astronomy, archeology, modern science, technology or almost any other subject, will find something of interest and have some fun along the way.

The World Expo showcases the progress of human societies, the development of science and technology, and the evolution of cities. It also encourages people to yearn for a better future.

My motherland has celebrated her 60th birthday, and Shanghai, which was once just a small fishing village, has come to be hailed as "Paris in the Orient."

During the development of Pudong, advanced technologies and concepts from overseas came pouring in. People from different cultures across the globe have come to live here, integrating with one another and creating a unique charm. I hope many more people will take the opportunity to visit World Expo and enjoy all the wonders the city has to offer.

The World Expo 2010 has selected "Better City, Better Life" as its theme. Indeed, cities are important symbols of modern civilizations as well as centers of development.


The rapid evolution of the Internet and information technologies has penetrated international barriers. As a result, no city can achieve its development without integrating outside cultures, science and technologies.

The diversity of our countries and cities is rich. As a regular resident of both Shanghai and Houston, I have deeply felt the integration of Eastern and Western cultures and come to appreciate the importance of intercity relations in the process of urban development.

Going from Shanghai to Houston, from China to the United States and from the East to the West, I am very proud to be part of this integration.

Seeing the nonstop progress resulting from such integration, I am always filled with pride and excitement for Shanghai's development. At the same time, however, I sometimes feel a little lost and sad when I return to Shanghai because I can no longer smell the snacks peddled at the roadside stands of my childhood or feel the bustling warmth of life in a residential lane.

Sometimes, I can't even tell the difference between living in Shanghai and in the United States. People of my generation, born in the 1980s, have only fleeting memories of the Shanghai culture and lifestyle of the past. That is perhaps the price of progress.

Besides Shanghai, many areas across the globe cherish their beautiful natural resources and their distinctive cultures. These areas draw visitors from all over the world, who bring with them different languages, cultures and ways of thinking.

While integration of cultures is part of modern development, it is regrettable if we don't try to preserve some of what we cherish from the past.

For every city, its native culture is its soul and human roots. Urban development should not be promoted at the cost of destroying indigenous culture and damaging natural resources.

Only by preserving these elements during the process of integration can a city retain its charm, its distinctiveness, its diversity and its vigor.

This delicate balancing act requires an open mind and careful thought. I hope these issues will become important in the process of modern-day development. I hope our children can live on a planet that has retained its human spirit and cultural roots - a place where they can cherish a common dream.

It is my belief that World Expo 2010 Shanghai China will draw global cultures to the city's shores as never before. This confluence will provide another impetus to urban development and give urban dwellers inspiration for a better tomorrow.

I hope this World Expo will be a great success. I am looking forward to this great exposition of human achievement, common understanding and united determination to make the cities of the future places we cherish in tandem with nature.

Yao Ming

Yao Ming, born in Shanghai in 1980, is a professional basketballer who plays for the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association.


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