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January 25, 2010

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Privileged coastal positions

CHINA showed the world its impressive and sensational organizational capabilities during the celebration of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. In 2010 we will once again witness the same tremendous skill and resources that will guarantee the World Expo's success and ensure that Shanghai will become the center of world attention from May 1 to October 31.

Barcelona and Shanghai both have long and established histories, with their own specific cultural, social, economic and urban development. For centuries, both cities have enjoyed a privileged coastal position as busy ports and centers for foreign commerce and confluence of ideas, giving shape to our open and warm personalities and a consolidated international vocation.

We, therefore, have first-hand experience of the great social, economic and cultural transformation a city undergoes when hosting an international event and the international projection this signifies. In Barcelona's case, the 1992 Olympics are a more recent example of how an international event of magnitude can be the catalyst for major change and improvement to the city in the short and long term.

Shanghai will doubtless enjoy many improvements and benefits and emerge even more resplendent than before, as a city of vision, reform and quality of life for its citizens. Exhibitions are unique places of universal encounter, education, experimentation, cooperation, participation, development and innovation, and Shanghai has much to share with the world as a platform of rapid transformation and leadership in urban development.

Barcelona welcomes the ground-breaking theme of Expo Shanghai 2010, "Better City, Better Life" which, for the first time, focuses on the city and its role in guaranteeing quality of life.

We congratulate Expo 2010 for giving cities this relevance and for recognizing their potential and privileged position to deal with aspects of the urban fabric at every level, which are priorities in the global public agenda. Never before has there been such marked recognition of cities as the actors directly experiencing and understanding the problems and challenges facing humanity in the 21st century, but also holding the key in the search for sustainable solutions.

The creation of the Urban Best Practices Area - gathering the best practices of cities around the world to foster urban innovation and create high-quality urban environments - is a unique way to help showcase global challenges that require local solutions.

Barcelona looks forward to participating in the Urban Best Practices Area, having been selected for two of its best practices. One of these projects is the restoration of the historic center of the city, Ciutat Vella, where urban conservation and renewal have gone hand-in-hand in developing an area and ensuring quality of life. The other project is 22@Barcelona and the transformation of the old industrial area of Poblenou into a new center of activity, where the most innovative companies co-exist with research, training and technology transfer centers, as well as housing, facilities and green areas alongside the neighbourhood's industrial heritage. These are just two examples illustrating Barcelona's policy to promote social cohesion and to enhance its citizens' living conditions. It is an experience we would also like to share with other cities.

It is an honor for Barcelona to have this opportunity to be present in Shanghai, and share both Expo 2010 and Shanghai's part in shaping a better world.

We wish Shanghai - our sister city since 2001 - the very best for this international and far-reaching event, in the knowledge that the city will easily step up to the mark and deliver what will be inarguably one of the best Expos of modern times.


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