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Thumbs up from World Expo boss

SINCE 2002, when Shanghai won the bid to host World Expo 2010, Vicente Losertales, secretary general of the International Bureau of Expositions (BIE), has visited Shanghai many times to supervise the preparation work.

With the opening of the Shanghai Expo approaching, the secretary general's visits have become more frequent. Losertales arrived in Shanghai for the second time this year last week, just four months after a visit in February.

Before his latest visit to the city, Shanghai Daily had a face-to-face chat with this kindly official.

Only a few minutes' walk from Paris' landmark, the Eiffel Tower, the headquarters of the International Bureau of Expositions is located in a chic neighborhood.

Losertales had just returned from Saudi Arabia. "This trip was also for the Shanghai Expo. The country is going to build an excellent pavilion and needed some advice. Pushing the preparations of other countries is a responsibility of BIE."

Q: How was your visit to Shanghai in February? What's your impression of the preparation work of the organizers?

A: I was in Shanghai around February. As the time of the opening of the Expo is approaching, we have to see the preparation situation and take all the necessary measures to push countries to continue working on their projects.

The preparations for Expo Shanghai should be seen in two different aspects - one is the construction of the Expo site - pavilions and infrastructure, anything that is the responsibility of the organizers. I think this part is going very well.

The second aspect is the preparation of the countries, and some countries are slightly late. The organizers - the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination - are working very hard to make them meet their deadlines.

I think, in general, the preparations are going very well. They have the economic crisis to cope with, as well. But this is a modest, not a major impact. In some cases, we see some countries changing the form of participation, but no country wants to pull out.

Q: It's great news that no country wants to pull out. Talking about the global financial crisis, do you feel its impact on the World Expo Shanghai? What do you think of its effect on the local economy or the world economy?

A: I think the Expo is a good way to fight the economic crisis. It is a blessing in a moment of crisis, as the investment comes not only from the Chinese government or the Shanghai government, but also from more than 180 participating countries.

Some developing countries are getting help from the Chinese government to participate in the event while some big countries are investing heavily.

Q: Then, do you have confidence in Shanghai hosting a successful World Expo?

A: Yes, I have no doubts at all about the success, and the economic success, of the Shanghai Expo. The Chinese government is doing many things to keep economic activities normal, which is making the financial environment very positive for Shanghai.

Q: As the idea of holding World Expo originated in Paris, World Expos have largely been influenced by the architectural styles and city planning of Paris. How do you think Expo will change the city?

A: If you walk around the most beautiful places in Paris, you will find a lot of very important pieces of World Expos remain in the city. The Eiffel Tower, which was built for the World Expo in 1889, The Grand Palace and the Bridge Alexandre III, which were built for the 1900 Expo, are hot tourist spots in Paris.

This time, we will see a beautiful Expo Park in Shanghai and it will be a new center for the city.

Q: The preparations are now close to the end. Does BIE have any suggestions or advice for the organizers?

A: We will look over the quality of the content of the foreign pavilions, as well as the Urban Best Practices Area and cultural events.

We shall make sure that the Expo pavilions reflect in a good way the theme, "Better City, Better Life," and are not just exhibiting tourist information and general introductions to the countries.

Expo is not only about architecture, but also about the culture, entertainment and dialogue around the themes.

We can see that the number of visitors who will be able to go to Expo is limited. Of course, everybody who wishes to come will be welcome, but access will not always be possible. We hope that Expo will benefit not just Shanghai but even neighboring cities, such as Hangzhou and Suzhou.

Q: The United States has missed a few recent Expos and also quit the BIE in 2001. This time, they made a verbal confirmation to participate in World Expo Shanghai and have already made some moves toward designing and constructing a pavilion.

Does BIE know exactly what is happening about the US participation? What's BIE's opinion concerning the participation of the US?

A: What we know we learned through the Expo organizers. We don't have direct contact with the US as it is not a member of BIE.

I know the organizers are doing everything they can to attract the United States.

I think the organizers are not losing hope. They are working very hard to prepare for the arrival of the United States.

I think that they will finally agree to participate in Expo. The only ones who would lose out would be themselves. Expo will be a success anyway.


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