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May 1, 2010

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Fireworks announce it: Expo is ready to rock!

Shanghai celebrated the opening of the 2010 World Expo last night with a lavish riverside display of fireworks, dancing fountains, laser lights and high technologies that epitomized 159 years of Expo history.

Thousands watched the gala live at the flying saucer-shaped the Expo Cultural Center, while thousands more savored fireworks, lights and fountains on the Bund.

Across China, millions shared Shanghai's celebration in front of their TVs.

In a toast at a gala dinner for dignitaries invited to watch the opening ceremony, President Hu Jintao said he was confident the world would "witness a successful, splendid and unforgettable World Expo."

"As the first registered World Expo hosted by a developing country, the Shanghai Expo will be an opportunity for China and also for the world," Hu said to an audience which included North Korea's number two Kim Yong-nam, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

The star-studded indoor festivities included action star Jackie Chan, Japanese singer Shinji Tanimura, concert pianist Lang Lang and opera star Andrea Bocelli, among 2,300 performers.

Afterward, guests moved outside for a lights, music and fireworks jubilee that lit up the banks of the Huangpu River with 1,200 searchlights, powerful lasers and mobile fountains.

The waters glowed with 6,000 rosy-hued 0.5-meter LED balls and lights from a parade of flag boats representing 189 nations participating in the Expo.

The Shanghai organizers adorned the international gathering with local elements.

"We're gonna see the world together ala nong," sang Siedah Garrett and Jonathan Buck, two American singers of the theme song "Better city, better life."

In Shanghai dialect, incomprehensible to most other Chinese, "ala" stands for "we" and "nong" means "you."

The Expo opens to the public this morning and is expected to draw 70 million people over six months to the national pavilions, designed to reflect the urban sustainability theme of "Better City, Better Life."

The elaborate outdoor performances, focused on the themes "Welcome to China," "Harmonious Gathering" and "Celebration" were centered on what organizers said is the world's largest LED screen.

"This show couldn't be done anywhere but in China," said David Atkins, the executive producer of the outdoor performance.


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