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April 27, 2010

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Security at Expo: It's one tough job

THIS past week, Yin Xiaojun got up at 5am every day to catch the shuttle bus to his post inside the World Expo site and couldn't get back home until 1am the next day.

As a security guard for the China Pavilion, Yin's job was to maintain an orderly line in front of the hottest pavilion in Expo's six trial runs.

It felt like the hardest job in the world.

Yin and 300 other security officers are in charge of maintaining order in an area that includes the China Pavilion, Hong Kong Pavilion, Macau Pavilion and the Theme Pavilions, 160,000 square meters flooded every day with an estimated average 250,000 visitors.

"Everyone wanted to visit the China Pavilion - the tallest building of the Expo Site was just so eye-catching," said Lin Song, officer in charge of the security team. "Moreover, its location is near the No. 5 and No. 6 entrances and also close to the Expo Boulevard, so the crowds so easily gathered around it."

And the crowds didn't care much about the rules. People kept showing up without the reservations needed to enter the pavilion, which can accommodate a maximum 50,000 tourists a day. Many who did have reservations would come at the wrong time.

"Most of the Chinese visitors just visit according to their own schedule, ignoring the time on the reservation pass," Lin told reporters. "So people just crowded in front of the pavilion with the pass in hand, whenever it was the reserved time or not."

Put it all together, and the enthusiastic crowds were almost a mission impossible to harness.

Yin and his colleagues had to shout the whole day until everyone went hoarse. Lunch time had to wait until 3pm or 4pm, and dinner was pushed back to 9pm, squeezed in after the rush hours of the visitors - and there was almost no time to rest.

Most of the security staff left the site around midnight after a full day of work and got home about 1am, Lin said.

But Lin said the situation gradually improved during the trial days as he and the team figured out some ways to control the crowds.

"We changed the waiting-line system every day after we found the problems," Lin said. "We added more signs and more railings" to shape the lines into snaking patterns.

But both Yin and Lin believed that they gained a lot of experience through the six-day trial run and are confident about the official opening of the Expo on Saturday.

"We've found methods during the problems," Lin said. "No one had ever experienced such a huge event before and it was fortunate we had the trial run so that we could better prepare for the following days of the Expo."


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