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December 8, 2009

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Topping out with tradition, style

THE completion of construction work after years of effort is always a euphoric moment. People in different world regions have distinctive ways to celebrate the achievement.

As World Expo 2010 gets closer, many pavilions are completing their steel structures. The Expo site becomes a big stage for those exotic and interesting roof-topping rituals to be held one after another.

The most exotic celebration so far was that at the Germany Pavilion.

A dozen German Expo organizers made a toast to the pavilion's success and then threw their wine glasses against the steel frame - a German custom that is believed to bring good luck to all those who enter the pavilion during the 2010 event.

"Let's admire the beautiful structure and wish the construction goes smoothly," the German Commissioner General Dietmar Schmitz chants before smashing his glass.

According to German tradition, the sound of smashing glass can keep devils away and bring good luck. Some Germans will still smash bowls and glasses on the first day of a year in front of their homes.

Denmark invited six young people to leap over steel structures at the top of the pavilion. The activity, called "parkour," a kind of sport popular in the West, is performed for participants in the roof-topping ceremony as well as being a celebration of the construction.

Australia, Switzerland and Norway pavilions each hung a tree on the top of the pavilion as a goodwill wish for the remaining construction. It has become a common roof-topping celebration at the Expo site.

Switzerland will also leave the pine tree on the rooftop as a lightning rod during the Expo.

The ritual is from an ancient custom of Australian aboriginals. They hang a tree at the top of their homes to demonstrate the building is their personal property.

The most traditional celebration is to hang the last steel beam on the top of the pavilion with a red ribbon attached.

The China Pavilion and Theme Pavilion, the two main Expo structures built by the Expo Shanghai organizer, marked the structure completion in this way.

The USA Pavilion also followed the Chinese-style celebration after an aggressive 89-day building effort on the pavilion.

US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman and Hong Hao, director general of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination, signed their names in Chinese characters on the last beam to be put into place.

Rather than the names, officials of the Norway Pavilion wrote down the date and time of topping off on the last beam of the pavilion as a traditional celebration to hope the buildings will stand forever.

Chile used a traditional South American celebration called "Tijerales." People performed ancient dances around the pavilion like a ritual.

Chile President Michelle Bachelet attended the ceremony - the first head of a foreign state to visit the still-under-construction Expo site.

The Expo Center took another Chinese traditional way of celebrating - with a lion dance and fireworks. Dancers performed in yellow and red lions in front of the pavilion while fireworks were ignited in a festive atmosphere. The center was built by the organizer to be the headquarters and media center during Expo.

The most practical way to celebrate the topping-off was also that of Germany. The German Expo group built a restaurant on the construction site and invited all the workers to have a German meal as reward for their hard work.

Singapore is the only Expo participant to celebrate its roof-topping away from the pavilion. The ceremony was held indoors at a Shanghai hotel.


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