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August 3, 2009

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Expo's greatest impact will be significant gains for city

FEW people will remember the themes or exhibitions of previous World Expos but most know of Crystal Palace and the Eiffel Tower, the iconic structures left behind after the 1851 London Exposition and the 1889 Paris Expo. They will also recall the economic recovery after the 1933 Chicago Expo.

World Expos are not only an amusement park for people to have fun during the event. They usually will have deeper and longer impact on the host city and its society, particularly after the event.

The 1958 Brussels Expo in Belgium left the Atomic Tower and a memorial park, which attracts about 300,000 visitors per year. The 1962 Seattle Expo delivered the Seattle Center, a multi-functional city center in the northwest United States. The 2000 Hanover Expo site has become a world-famous exhibition center that attracts 26,000 exhibitors every year.

With the largest number of participants and the biggest site in Expo history, what will the 2010 Shanghai World Expo leave behind? What will the 5.28-square-kilometer Expo site become after the 2010 event?

With more than 250 days to its start, people can get an understanding of Expo's rough outline from the many steel and concrete structures emerging. However, the Shanghai municipal government has long had a plan for the Expo site after 2010: to be a new business center catering for conferences, exhibitions, accommodation and tourism.

The Expo site in the city's downtown area will be turned into a "concentration area of modern services mainly for exhibitions, conferences, activities and accommodation," the government said in an environmental report for the Expo released last Tuesday.

The 20,000-square-meter China Pavilion and the 129,000-square-meter Theme Pavilion will be turned into exhibition venues. Some highlight exhibits will be reserved inside the pavilion to remind people of the historical event.

A world first-class exhibition city needs about 600,000 square meters of display area, while Shanghai currently has 400,000 square meters. The buildings at Expo can bridge the gap, said Wu Zhiqiang, the chief planner of Expo Shanghai who leads the College of Architecture and Urban Planning of Tongji University.

Wu said the Expo organizer designed the post-Expo plan for the site even before thinking of the masterplan for the duration of the fair. "The permanent buildings are just 'borrowed' to be Expo venues," he said.

The 126,000-square-meter Performance Center will deliver superb theatrical performances with its state-of-the-art props and lighting. The seashell-shaped center has a main theater that can be adapted to accommodate 4,000 to 18,000 seats, according to need.

The Expo Center, the headquarters of the event, will be transformed into an international conference center with banquet halls and media centers. The plenary meeting of Shanghai People's Congress and the Shanghai Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference will be held in the center next January.

The Expo Boulevard, the main access to the site, will be transformed into a modern commercial corridor as well as a tourism attraction.

The Expo Village, which will accommodate officials from participating countries and organizations, will be a hotel center with a five-star hotel, 20 or so apartment buildings and three budget hotels with a total of 7,000 beds.

Green corridor

The three main green areas - Expo Park, Houtan Park and Bailianjing Park - covering an area as large as 50 football fields in Pudong New Area along the Huangpu River, will form a riverside green corridor.

About 10 percent of the historic buildings, including the former Jiangnan Shipyard workshops, will be preserved and turned into innovation parks.

All the outdoor areas will be reduced in size and continue to be city squares.

The Expo site is expected to be a new "international cultural exchange center" in 2012, Wu said.

However, more than 80 percent of buildings on the site will be dismantled according to a stipulation of the International Exposition Bureau, including the more than 200 fantastic pavilions built by the participants.

As for vacant land, Shanghai Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng has said affordable housing will be built for low-income citizens if the city makes a profit from the event.

The Expo will bring an estimated 1.2 trillion yuan (US$175.2 billion) in output values, including at least 30 percent released after the Expo, said Sun Yunxin, deputy director of the Institute for World Expo Economy of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

The long-term effects for the host city from World Expos were always greater than the duration because of the infrastructure upgrading, the promotion of new technology and the redevelopment of Expo lands, Sun said.

The period of influence will be more than 20 years, he added.

As Wang Daohan, the late president of the Chinese mainland-based Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait, said: "The six-month Shanghai World Expo will influence the development of the city for 60 years."

Post-event land use of previous World Expos

2005 Aichi Expo: All construction on the Expo themed "Nature Wisdom" area was dismantled and the Japanese Expo organizer turned the land back into forest and grassland as if no event had ever been held there.

2001 Hannover Expo: All the pavilions have been retained for renting to exhibitors. The area has made Hannover an "international exhibition city" that attracts 26,000 exhibitors every year.

1967 Montreal Expo: The Expo site was transformed into an amusement park, including a Formula One race track. The pavilions were retained to be museums and casinos.

1962 Seattle Expo: The Seattle Center, a significant multi-functional complex with cultural and sports venues in the northwest United States, was built to be modelled on the former Expo site.

1958 Brussels Expo: The Expo site was former royal hunting lands and the King ordered all structures to be dismantled except the iconic Atomic Tower. which was restored in 2003 and now attracts about 300,000 visitors a year.

Post-event building use:

China Pavilion: exhibition venue

Theme Pavilion: exhibition/event venue

Expo Center: international conference center with banquet halls, information centers, other buildings

Performance Center: arts performing venues as a large-scale integrated facility capable of seating up to 18,000 people

Expo Boulevard: a modern commercial corridor in Shanghai with unique landscape.

Q:When did the Qing government first participate in a World Expo?

A:Expo 1876 Philadelphia.

The Qing government set up a display area for Chinese goods in the exhibition hall. An archway decorated with carvings and a plaque of Chinese characters, "Da Qing Guo" (the Great Qing), was put up at the front, reflecting the style of a Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) local government building. A variety of works of art were displayed in ancient and elegant cabinets, namely silk, silver vessels, cloisonne, lacquer work, porcelain, calligraphy and paintings which attracted lots of visitors. Some media commented that China was one of the most successful participants at this Expo.

Q:When did the Chinese government formally lead businessmen to attend Expo for the first time?

A:In Expo 1904 St Louis.

China was formally invited this time. The committee member who delivered the invitation listened to opinions from many Chinese governors and was received by the Empress Dowager Cixi personally to give information about the Expo. After that, China established a committee led by Prince Pulun and set up its own pavilion at this World Expo.Featuring steep roofs and upturned corners with gorgeous colors, the Chinese Pavilion was a magnificent oriental building costing US$120,000.

The China Village within, embodying an opera house, a Buddhist pavilion, a tea house and other fixtures, drew a great number of visitors. Chinese actors and craftsmen displayed their immense talents to the world through this exhibition and many exhibits attracted immeasurable publicity. The Qing administration attached great importance to participating in this Expo, supporting it in organization and finance and contributing to its success.

It thus put an end to the days when foreigners organized China's participation in World Expo events.


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