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Officials remain upbeat despite rain dampener

THE number of visitors at the Shanghai World Expo so far is lower than expectations.

Yesterday, the total number of visitors was 85,564, the least since the Expo officially opened on May 1.

Because of heavy rain, the organizer yesterday had to close down all elevated pedestrian paths in the park. The costume parades, as well as a number of outdoor performances, were also cancelled because of the bad weather. These factors obviously contributed to the decrease in visitors.

In earlier media reports, in explaining the less-than-expected visitor number, the Expo organizer reasoned that visitors may try to avoid the hot weather and thought the May Day holiday would be overcrowded.

"I can relax a little bit now, because of less pressure over security settings and all kinds of services," Hong Hao, director of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination, was quoted by a Chinese newspaper as saying.

However, he admitted worrying about the insufficient number of visitors as the anticipated figure was 70 million in 184 days, the newspaper said.

According to Ji Lude, director of the Expo bureau's research center, the 70 million figure was based on the research results of a United States survey company.

According to the US company, the Expo could attract 50 million visitors. If Shanghai did a good job in publicity, the number could be up to 70 million, it said.

"After a while, I believe the number of visitors will certainly increase," an Expo bureau official in charge of the running of the Urban Best Practices Area said. "In the last month of the Expo, the number of visitors will peak."

"The number of visitors is less than we expected," an Expo Bureau's press official said yesterday, "We will try to take measures to get people more interested in visiting."

By May 4, over 33.1 million tickets have already been sold. Plus the free tickets given by the Shanghai government to every households in the city, the potential number of visitors is 40 million at the moment.


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