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Shanghai Expo Gets 433,000 Visitors on First Weekend

2010 World Expo opening ceremony
Performers hold their arms out during the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai on Friday. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

More than 433,000 people visited Shanghai’s $44 billion World Expo on its first weekend, enduring temperatures as high as 86 degrees Fahrenheit as they stood in queues that were as long as three hours for some exhibits.

Almost 128,000 people streamed into the 5.3 square kilometers (2 square-mile) Expo park today as of 5:00 p.m. local time, according to organizers. More than 225,000 visitors toured the exhibits yesterday, 17,900 more than the 207,700 there on May 1, the first day the event was open to the public.

“We came yesterday and today and all we did was wait in queues,” said Yang Jun, who came with five family members from neighboring Jiangsu province. “I’d have rather watched it on TV. It’s too hot out here.”

Police were deployed to oversee longer queues at some of the pavilions and water mist was sprayed over walkways and benches to help cool visitors after doctors at the site treated 82 people yesterday for heat stroke and other ailments. Shanghai, China’s richest city, estimates 70 million people will visit the six-month long expo, more than 10-times the number who traveled to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Temperatures rose to as high as 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) today, according to the China Meteorological Administration. Thunderstorms are forecast to hit the city tomorrow evening and the morning of May 5, with temperatures as high as 28 Degrees Celsius, according to the weather bureau.

More Shade

Organizers today opened special lines at gates into the park for visitors more than 70-years old and said they’re installing more shelters for shade, providing more water to visitors and adding doctors. Lines for more popular exhibits such as the Australia and U.K. pavilions continued to be as long as 30 minutes to 40 minutes, China Central Television reported.

Shanghai’s Dragon TV, a unit of government-owned Shanghai Media Group, called on visitors during its broadcast to obey rules set out by expo organizers as it showed footage of people cutting in line, trash littering the grounds and visitors circumventing a barrier to pick flowers off a tree on display.

“The expo is great,” said 29-year old Liu Ting, who traveled to Shanghai from northern China’s Inner Mongolia province. “It’s crowded but we were expecting that,” she said after visiting the Australian pavilion.

China Pavilion

Passes for the red China pavilion named “The Crown of the East” were gone before 9 a.m. local time on the Expo’s opening day. Pavilion officials yesterday handed out 50,000 of the free passes, China News Service reported. Arguments broke out between police and visitors barred from the China pavilion because they failed to obtain passes, Shanghai’s Dragon TV reported.

Lin Youmian, the 28-year old owner of a fashion accessories business in Fujian province, was among visitors who failed to get passes for the China pavilion today. Instead, she sat at the Turkish pavilion eating Iskender kebab, a traditional dish of grilled lamb and beef served over bread, which she described as “acceptable.”

“What I wanted to visit was the Chinese pavilion but we were too late,” Lin said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao officially opened the expo on April 30 at an evening ceremony marked by fireworks, a laser show and performances by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and martial-arts film star Jackie Chan. Visiting leaders including French President Nicolas Sarkozy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso watched the display from the expo site along the shores of the Huangpu river.

Five-Day Holiday

To ensure smooth operations for the fair, Shanghai has deployed armed police to patrol the Expo park, restricted sales of knives and given local residents a five-day holiday through May 4, during which they’ve been asked to stay at home as much as possible.

Exhibits at the Shanghai expo include a giant mechanical baby at the Spanish pavilion, ostrich meat wraps at the Africa hall, Italian artisans making shoes by hand and beer served outside the German pavilion.

World expos began with the 1851 World’s Fair in London’s Crystal Palace that showcased the wealth and technological prowess of Europe’s industrialized nations.

They’ve led to the construction of iconic structures, including the Eiffel Tower and Seattle’s Space Needle. The events are now divided into so-called Universal Expos, such as the one in Shanghai, and smaller, more specialized exhibitions.

“I went to the expo in Hanover and this one here is so much nicer,” said Rufus Brevett, 19, a student from the U.K. “It’s massive.” Hanover, Germany hosted the 2000 expo.

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