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Pride, joy and a little sadness as Shanghai bids farewell to Expo

AT midnight, hundreds of flags of participant countries and international organizations were lowered at the Shanghai World Expo site, bringing the record-breaking event to a close.

The flags had been raised in front of the China Pavilion on May 1, and flew over the 5.28-square-kilometer Expo site for the past 184 days.

More than 73 million visitors were treated to a feast of cultures and technologies focused on the theme "Better City, Better Life" in the biggest Expo since the world event began with the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London.

A crowd of around 8,000, joined by singers and dancers on stage at the Culture Center, erupted into applause when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao declared the Expo formally closed last night.

Wen said the Shanghai Expo had been a splendid event and added a glorious chapter to Expo history.

Calling the event "eye-opening" and "unforgettable." the premier expressed gratitude on behalf of the Chinese government and paid tribute to all the people who had participated in, supported and contributed to the first Expo held by a developing country.

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan said the Expo has made China and the world come closer together, and that a more open, inclusive and culturally advanced China that steadily moves forward will join other countries to usher in an ever brighter future for all.

He said the Expo spirit will be carried forward from generation to generation.

"I am convinced that the vision of 'Better City, Better Life' will become reality," Wang said.

Jean-Pierre Lafon, president of World Expo supervising body the International Exhibitions Bureau (BIE), said the Shanghai World Expo was an "astounding success."

Speaking in Chinese, Lafon said: "Expo 2010 is the success of China. It is the success of Shanghai ... It is also the great success of the World Expo."

The BIE flag was lowered and handed over by Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng and Hong Hao, director general of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination to Letizia Moratti, mayor of Milan, and Giuseppe Sala, CEO of the Milan Expo 2015.

China's top entertainers and athletes, including Shanghai's 110m-hurdler Liu Xiang, film star Jackie Chan and pop singer Andy Lau, also helped mark the end of Expo.

The Shanghai World Expo attracted 246 nations and international organizations, the largest-ever number at a World Expo. More than 73 million people visited the site - a record in Expo history.

The Expo also set a record for the largest daily attendance, when more than 1.03 million visitors flocked to the site on October 16.

These figures broke records set at the Osaka World Expo in 1970, which recorded 64.22 million visitors, including 844,000 on a single day.

For the past six months, the Expo site was a global village where people could see rare cultural treasures from around the world - such as the Bronze Chariot and Horse sculpture from China's Qin Dynasty, the statue of Athena from Greece and the masterpieces of French Impressionist artists - and also get a taste of the world's diverse cultures through more than 20,000 events.

But today work will begin dismantling more than 200 foreign and corporate pavilions, in accordance with BIE stipulations. Five structures will remain; the China Pavilion, the Culture Center, the Expo Center, the Theme Pavilions and Expo Boulevard.

The Expo site will be transformed into a cultural, business and commercial center.

The United Kingdom Pavilion, the Saudi Arabia Pavilion and the Germany Pavilion were given the top three golden awards by the Expo Shanghai organizer and BIE.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the Summit Forum of the Expo yesterday morning that the Chinese government, the city of Shanghai and the BIE deserve the highest praise as the Shanghai World Expo brought nations together and celebrated global diversity.

The Summit Forum on Urban Innovation and Sustainable Development invites state leaders, officials, scientists, experts and entrepreneurs to seek innovative ways for sustainable urban development.

The Shanghai Declaration, which set out targets for building cities that establish harmony between diverse cultures, between development and environment and between cultural legacies and future innovations, was delivered during the closing plenary.

Six months ago, the Expo opened with a bang as fireworks lit up the sky and Shanghai welcomed the world to the city.

While the closing ceremony was more low-key, the Expo site was filled with joy, tinged with a little sadness at the prospect of the event ending and teams who had worked together for months breaking-up.

Marco Fabio Lauretti, manager of the Italy Pavilion restaurant, said he felt a little sad as he didn't think he would ever be involved in such a large-scale fair again.

There were tears and smiles as volunteers embraced. Pavilion officials sang and danced while visitors gathered in front of LED screens across the Expo site broadcasting the closing ceremony.

Officials from more than 200 countries and organizations sang the Chinese song "The Jasmine Flower" together in Chinese on the stage. This was said to be the first time that foreigners from so many different countries had sung a Chinese song together.

Some 304,200 people visited the site on the last day, bringing the final attendance to 73.08 million.

Pavilions held various special events after welcoming their final visitors.

Kevin Rudd, Australia's minister for foreign affairs, closed the door of the Australia Pavilion around 11pm after saying goodbye to the final visitors. "I congratulate Shanghai and the people of China on the successful staging of this historic Expo, which welcomed more than 70 million visitors," said Rudd.

He said the popularity of the Australia Pavilion confirmed strong interest and opportunities for Australia in China.

The Taiwan Pavilion held a lights out ceremony to mark its closure. Wang Chih Kang, chairman of the Taipei World Trade Center, led staff around the pavilion for the final time before holding a countdown and turning off the lights.

The Singapore Pavilion erected a golden wishing tree in front of the building for visitors to hang their wishes.

On the last parade on Bocheng Road at noon, performers waved at visitors along the roads. Many visitors waved back, as they all bid goodbye to the Shanghai World Expo.


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