The Olympic Games might be over, but China's enthusiasm for
grand building projects is alive and kicking.
As public attention turned away from the world's most
populous nation when the Olympics ended, the country was
already gearing up for its next appearance on the world stage
the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.
And like everything else in China, the authorities aren't
doing things half way. Following in the footsteps of the
Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government is renovating old city
corners, having already relocated 18,000 families from the
exposition site. The enormous construction project, with an
estimated budget of 18 billion yuan ($2.63 billion), is
expected to be completed by the end of September.
Everything will be done on a scale befitting the vast nation
Baosteel Group Corp. Ltd. has already provided more than 85,000
tons of steel, primarily for construction of the major
permanent venues, compared with a mere 4,500 tons of steel used
to build the Crystal Palace at the original London World Expo
Shanghai, a traditional adversary of Beijing, was
overshadowed by last summer's sporting events but is eager to
re-establish itself as the premier city in China. Shanghai's
enthusiasm for the six-month-long event has been building since
it won the bid to host the event in December 2002.
The city is plastered with posters displaying the "Haibao"
(treasure of the seas) mascot, which have become ever more
prevalent in recent months as they replace advertisements tied
to the Olympics even though the event is still more than a year
The World Expo historically has been an opportunity for
countries to showcase their technological advancement and
prowess through exhibitions as well as develop cutting-edge
architectural landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and
the Space Needle in Seattle.
China is the first developing nation to host a World Expo,
and the Shanghai World Expo will provide the city with several
permanent landmark structures, such as the China Pavilion,
representing a traditional oriental crown and spanning 70,000
square meters (753,500 square feet) that will serve as a
cultural center after the event.
Such events have faded from public prominence in recent
years as more attention is heaped on international sporting
events, like the recent summer Olympics. Previous host cities
have struggled to attract international visitors and balance
The 2000 Expo in Hanover, Germany, for example, was expected
to attract 40 million visitors, but only 25 million people
actually turned up, leading to a $600-million deficit. And at
the 2005 Expo in Aichi, Japan, only an estimated 4.6 percent of
visitors were from foreign countries, despite favorable visa
The timing of the Shanghai Expo could have been better the
event will take place during the traditional typhoon season,
which could ward off potential visitors. Still, China-with its
fiercely nationalistic population of 1.3 billion-isn't expected
to stumble when it comes to the number of visitors, even if
they are predominantly drawn from the local population.
The World Expo is expected to attract more than 70 million
people throughout the six-month event, with an estimated
400,000 attending daily. An online version of the event is
being set up and is expected to attract 15 million to 30
million visitors daily, although there is some concern that
this will discourage some from attending in person.
With the world in a global recession and China's economic
growth slowing, the timing of the event couldn't be more
beneficial for the local economy. The World Expo should
continue to be a significant economic stimulus over the next
two years. Shanghai is building many pavilions for nations to
showcase their wares, but only five will remain as permanent
structures while the rest will be dismantled after the event to
avoid the heavy burden of maintaining idle venues.
This provides the double benefit of providing a pre-expo
stimulus as the city constructs the facilities followed by a
post-expo boost as resources are devoted to dismantling
temporary structures. The Shanghai World Expo will allow China
to build on the enormous success of the Beijing Olympics and
partially mitigate the economic slowdown. China also continues
to prepare for the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou and other
major infrastructure projects, including a 200-billion-yuan
($29.28-billion) Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway. The World
Expo is only one of a series of international events that China
is hosting in the coming years, but it certainly won't be the