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October 25, 2010

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Expo tops own target of 70m ... and still counting

WITH a week to go, visitor numbers at the Shanghai World Expo have topped the 70 million figure that organizers predicted would attend the six-month event.

More than 748,300 people had visited the Expo site by 9pm yesterday, bringing the total attendance to 70.45 million.

Despite the wet and cold weather, many people chose to visit yesterday as it was the last day on which standard ticket holders could enter the Expo site. The final week is limited to peak-day ticket holders.

At 10:17am, the Expo welcomed visitor number 70,000,001 since the event started in May. As this was relayed on the information screen in the operation center, staff began cheering and taking photographs.

"Our prime concern is that visitors have a good experience at the Expo," said Hong Hao, the director of the Shanghai Expo Coordination Bureau. "But of course we are happy that this record has been achieved."

Organizers were prepared for a busy day. From morning at Yaohua Road Metro station, a broadcast reminded Expo ticket holders to buy the return subway ticket in advance, as there would be a huge passenger turnout at night.

Queues snaked around popular pavilions, with visitors enduring lengthy waits by reading magazines and nibbling on snacks.

Staff worked to ensure that queuing went smoothly.

He Chao, a member of security staff at the Saudi Arabia Pavilion, repeated for hours on end: "Please do not forget your line position and remember your number when you come back."

"I'm determined to see the pavilion," said a visitor, surnamed Teng, lining up in the queue. Teng has already visited the Expo site several times and seen many of other popular pavilions.

Belgian visitor Jan Deconinck left the queue after taking a photograph of waiting visitors. "I think it's better for me to just tour around to see others," he said.

Mei Haixing, 59, a retired teacher in Shanghai, has so far visited the Expo 28 times. He has written a 400-page diary including pictures, souvenirs and signatures from the different pavilion curators.

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

Daily attendance at Expo exceeded 600,000 people last week.

"We have gained much experience and confidence from dealing with huge numbers on earlier occasions," said Xu Ding, an administrator with operation center.

Xu said it is vital not to relax yet, though. "It still remains unknown how many people will switch standard tickets for peak-time ones."

People can pay an extra 40 yuan to trade in expired standard tickets for the peak-day tickets.

During the last week of the Expo, from today until Sunday, daily visitor numbers will be limited to between 400,000 and 500,000, said Huang Jianzhi, deputy director of the Shanghai Expo Bureau.

Pavilions are currently preparing their final shows to mark the end of Expo. Details will be revealed soon.


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