Shanghai’s $44 billion World Expo, visited by more than half a million people in its first three days, added doctors and sprayed mist on walkways as long queues and high temperatures left dozens suffering from heat stroke.
More than 142,000 visitors had streamed into the Expo park on the banks of the Huangpu river as of 6 p.m. today, exceeding the almost 132,000 people who toured the site yesterday, according to organizers. The event’s first weekend on May 1-2 drew more than 433,000 visitors, forcing people to queue for as long as three hours for some exhibits in temperatures that rose to as high as 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).
“We knew we’d have to wait in line,” said Wang Ling, a 46-year-old who works at a sock factory in Anhui province. She took a nine-hour train ride with six family members to Shanghai and arrived at the Expo today with folding chairs, umbrellas to block the sun and packed lunches. “We are very well-prepared.”
Organizers deployed 12 ambulances, installed shelters for shade and distributed more water to those touring the exhibits. Doctors at the Expo park treated 20 people for heat stroke yesterday after 82 visitors needed assistance on May 2 due to high temperatures and other ailments. The China Meteorological Administration forecast thunderstorms for Shanghai this evening, with temperatures as high as 27 degrees Celsius during the day.
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. To ensure smooth operations, Shanghai has deployed armed police to patrol the park, restricted sales of knives and given local residents a five-day holiday through today, during which they’ve been asked to stay at home as much as possible.
Organizers yesterday opened special lines at gates into the park for visitors more than 70 years old. Workers at the U.S. pavilion today warned visitors they’d likely need to queue for an hour and a half. Other pavilions including those of Nigeria, South Africa and Slovenia had no lines.
“We’re here to check out different cultures so when we do travel, we’ll know where to go,” said Wang Jianghui, a 36-year old technician from Shanghai who visited the expo today with his two-year old daughter and two other family members.
Shanghai’s Dragon TV, a unit of government-owned Shanghai Media Group, called on visitors during its broadcasts to obey rules set out by expo organizers. It showed footage of people cutting in line, of litter and of visitors circumventing a barrier to pick flowers off a tree on display.
Passes for the red China pavilion, named “The Crown of the East,” were gone by 9 a.m. local time on 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, 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 yesterday. 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.
Features of 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.
The fairs have 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 Shanghai’s, and smaller, more specialized exhibitions. The China pavilion will be one of the few structures not torn down after the expo concludes at the end of October.