Shanghai celebrated the opening ceremony of World Expo 2010 – which is said to be the largest world expo in history – on Friday with an epic fireworks display that marked the city’s return to the world stage.
Conceived as the second act in the dramatic re-branding of China which began with the 2008 Beijing Olympics, on Friday’s performance, which was attended by a number of world leaders including Nicolas Sarkozy, French president and José Manuel Barroso was, European Commission president, billed by organisers as the largest outdoor multi-media show in history.
And as the Associated Press noticed: “The Expo marks an emphatic comeback as a major world city after decades of spartan industrialism following the 1949 communist revolution. Like the 2008 Olympics, the event is showcasing China’s growing economic and geopolitical sway, both for the world and for its own public.”
“Expo 2010 Shanghai is now open!” Chinese President Hu Jintao declared during the gala opening, in which 2,300 performers and musicians from all over the world took part including action star Jackie Chan, Japanese singer Shinji Tanimura, concert pianist Lang Lang and opera star Andrea Bocelli.
After it, the guests moved outside for a lights, music and fireworks jubilee that lit up the banks of Shanghai’s murky Huangpu River with 1,200 searchlights, powerful lasers and mobile fountains. The waters glowed with 6,000 rosy-hued LED balls and lights from a parade of flag boats representing nations participating in the Expo.
The Expo, which opens to the public tomorrow, is expected to draw 70 million people over six months to pavilions from almost 200 nations designed to reflect the urban sustainability theme of “‘Better City, Better Life.”
Almost 250 countries and international organisations are showcasing their culture in an event themed around sustainable development. Many are doing so in pavilions with radical architecture.
China is spending $4.2 billion dollars on the World Expo itself, and much more on other improvements for Shanghai. It is the most expensive and largest Expo ever, and local media have reported the true cost is closer to $58 billion, including infrastructure.
“This is a very important moment. We have made preparations for years,” Hong Hao, Deputy General for the Expo, said. Freshly painted buildings, several new metro lines and new airport terminals all proclaim the country’s newfound status as a modern, increasingly affluent industrial giant.
Critics of the show questioned the opening’s extravagant usage of electricity could be consistent with Shanghai Expo’s theme of environmental sustainability. David Atkins Enterprises said use of energy saving technologies reduced power consumption by 55 per cent from what would otherwise have been the case.
Premier Wen Jiabao has said that staging such an Expo is a 100-year old dream come true for China – aimed, in the words of one late 19th century Chinese thinker, at ensuring that the “the sleeping lion”, can be “ woken up from the deep dream and cured of its protracted illness”.