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September 24, 2010

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Expo crowd tops 630,000, biggest attendance day yet

MORE than 600,000 people visited the World Expo yesterday, breaking the record of 568,300 on August 21 and reaching the daily limit set by the Expo bureau before the world fair opened in May.

However, the organizer said everything ran smoothly at the site, and many visitors said they felt comfortable just walking around because of the weather.

Zhang Qing, deputy director of the Expo's operation headquarters, said the bureau wouldn't stop visitors from entering the site as previously envisioned because the site proved capable of handling more.

The organizer had put a 600,000-a-day limit on visitors for fear of straining the site's facilities.

But a number of improvements - including extensions of barriers for queues and expansions of Expo staff - made it possible for the site to handle more people, said Zhang.

Attendance reached 631,100 at 9pm. Crowds were seen waiting at even those joint pavilions that are usually a breeze to enter.

Passengers squeezed into the Cross-River and Shibo Avenue bus lines, but more buses were on the road. Queues seemed no longer than usual.

A driver told Shanghai Daily that all the bus drivers took their lunch on buses yesterday, and they got off buses only for toilet breaks.

The site's ferry wharfs were also crowded. The bureau had to keep one ferry service running till 9pm instead of 7:30pm because so many people had gathered at piers on both sides of the Huangpu River.

Zhang said most visitors came to the site because of the Middle-Autumn Festival holiday, and because the weather was comfortable. The temperature nudged upward to 22 degrees Celsius from Wednesday's 20, with mild sunshine and breezes.

Allen Sanchez, from California, US, arrived in Shanghai on Sunday to see the Expo. He said Tuesday was too hot at 35 degrees while Wednesday was too cold. But yesterday was perfect.

Many visitors stopped at open stages to watch performances, rather than join the long waiting lines to get into pavilions.

According to the official estimate, visitors had to wait up to six hours to enter the Saudi Arabia Pavilion that celebrated its National Pavilion Day yesterday. Each pavilion visitor received a limited-edition pin.

Crowds swarmed restaurants, too. Workers at a KFC asked visitors to stop waiting at 6:30pm because the line was so long and the restaurant feared running out of food.

One innovation made it easier for the crowds to cope: The Expo bureau yesterday finished installing 89 toilets especially for children ages 4 to 9. The potties were attached to every group of public toilets.


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