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Merlion may visit world's fair

SINGAPORE'S iconic Merlion statue may come to Shanghai to charm visitors to the 2010 World Expo, a tourism official said yesterday.

But the suggestion failed to please Tan Kay Ngee, chief designer of the country's pavilion, who voiced his objection to the plan.

Tan said the statue should not be put in the pavilion because it had no connection with the Expo's "city" theme.

However, Alfred Poon Keng Hoi, assistant director of the Singapore Tourism Board, hoped it might be a feature of the country's Expo pavilion, whose music-box design was also unveiled yesterday.

Singapore may invite Chinese artists to design another Merlion to take the place of the original during Expo, he said.

The move follows Denmark's decision to send its "Little Mermaid" statue to the 2010 event and its invitation to Chinese sculptors to produce a Chinese interpretation as a substitute.

The Merlion is an imaginary creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish.

It was the logo of the Singapore Tourism Board from 1964 to 1997 and became one of the country's most popular tourist attractions, drawing more than a million visitors a year. It has just been repaired after it was hit by lightning and damaged on February 28.

"I think it is quite a good idea and I hope the plan will come true," said Poon. He said the board would be discussing the issue with the Singaporean government.

The pavilion will be a 3,000-square-meter structure with the theme "Urban Symphony." Its aluminum facade will be filled with models of Singapore's famous buildings.

In the pavilion, Singaporeans will share their experiences of the urban planning that has turned Singapore into a "garden city," said Poon.

Water and plants will be the two main elements. Fountains will be built around the pavilion and there will be a roof garden with many tropical plants, said Tan.

Poon declined to say how much the country was spending on its Expo showcase but said the global financial crisis had not had an impact on the country's Expo budget.


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