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December 2, 2010

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Thousands flock to see Expo icon

THOUSANDS of visitors eager to see the China Pavilion swamped the ticket office yesterday. The numbers far exceeded expectations of how many people would turn up for the first day of the reopening of the World Expo pavilion.

Even before the ticket office next to Yaohua Road station on Metro Line 8 opened at 8:40am the queues were in their hundreds.

By 9:30am the waiting line stretched for several hundred meters and blocked an entrance to the Metro station, forcing policemen and armed soldiers to be brought in to keep order.

Though 16 ticket windows were opened after the original 10 proved too few, people still had to wait up to four hours to buy the 20 yuan (US$3) tickets.

By around 11am there were more than 9,000 people waiting in line. But a couple of hours later queuing times were down to around 15 minutes and by the end of the day more than 20,000 people had been able to gain entry.

Many visitors were annoyed that all 30 ticket windows hadn't been in use to cope with demand.

And they said that the lack of restrictions on the number of tickets people could buy also caused problems. Some people were found buying more than 100 tickets at a time, causing unnecessary delays as staff counted out the tickets and the cash.

Multiple ticket buying is allowed as tickets are valid for any day over the six months the pavilion will be open.

An official with the World Expo bureau, surnamed Ma, told Shanghai Daily that people's enthusiasm was far beyond their expectation. But Ma said visitors do not need to rush to see the pavilion because "we have enough tickets and people can buy as many as they want."

The national pavilion's popularity has become a business opportunity for scalpers. They kept raising their prices, from 25 yuan, to 40, 50 and then to 100 yuan as more and more people joined the queues and decided to pay the extra rather than wait hours in line.

An official with the Expo bureau, who asked not to be named, said they'd noticed the scalpers and would watch out for them. "Police in plain clothes are also standing in crowds to target scalpers," he said.

A disabled woman from the Netherlands complained that there was no green channel for the elderly and the handicapped at the ticket office.

Based on yesterday's situation, Qian Zhiguang, deputy director of the pavilion, predicted large numbers of visitors over the weekend, and hoped that some people can choose another date to see the pavilion over the next six months.

The exhibition in the pavilion, which is open from 9am to 5pm daily, is almost the same as that during the Expo, with the national treasure of the "Bronze Chariot and Horse" from the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) on show along with the animated "Along the Riverside During the Qingming Festival."

A new exhibit reviewing the construction, infrastructure and operating of the Shanghai Expo, has been added in the pavilion's waiting area.

Seniors citizens, disabled people, students, children and military personnel will be eligible for a 5 yuan discount. Children under 1.2 meters tall can enter free if accompanied by an adult.

The green channels at the pavilion itself are open to the disabled, babies in prams and senior citizens over 75 years old - proof of age for elderly visitors and a certificate proving a person's disability are required to use the green channels.

Visitors can get a free map of the pavilion and stamps from the souvenir store inside.

The pavilion is expecting to receive up to 4,000 people an hour, with the peak period being between 10am and 2pm, said Qian.

Visitors can enter the Expo site at the former No. 6 entrance on Shangnan Road in the Pudong New Area. The new entrance to the China Pavilion is at the former entrance of the Chinese Provinces Pavilion.

The provincial pavilion itself is closed as exhibits inside are being dismantled.


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