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Londoners throng to Lunar New Year Expo celebrations

MORE than 350,000 people, mostly Europeans, braved snow and temperatures of minus 7 degrees Celsius to enjoy Chinese New Year celebrations in London's Trafalgar Square on February 1, the seventh day of the Lunar New Year - the biggest crowd since celebrations were first held there in 2005.

Both Trafalgar Square and London's Chinatown were decked out in Chinese red - from lamps to dancing lions - and this year also blue - the color of World Expo 2010 mascot Haibao.

This year, the Chinese New Year celebrations coincided with the finale of Expo 2010 organizers' promotion activities - Shanghai Week in London - which started on January 29.

Traditional lion and dragon dances were presented on stage, while performers dressed as Haibao mingled with crowd, handing out Expo promotional materials and souvenirs, including badges and Haibao dolls.

Haibao proved more popular than the traditional Chinese performances. People thronged to hug him, shake his hand and pose for photos with him.

"China is fantastic and I would like to visit Expo 2010 in Shanghai," said Davis Mido, a London man who organized a lion-dancing team that performed at the celebration. Mido said he learned the lion dance during his 10 visits to China.

Stephen Powell, director of the eight-minute London show at the Beijing Olympics closing ceremony, said the Chinese New Year celebration would help improve the communications between the two countries.

The Shanghai Week promotion also featured an exhibition of jade and bronze masterpieces at the British Museum that opened on January 29, and a forum between Chinese and British scholars on January 31 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, one of the exhibition areas of the first World Expo held in London in 1851.

After seeing the exhibition, Dame Jessica Rawson, a professor at Oxford University, said Shanghai Week would encourage English people to visit the city for Expo 2010.

The Expo 2010 global promotion has reached South Korea, Japan and Spain. Organizers plan to hold more promotions in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia this year.


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