Shanghai kicked off its multi-billion dollar technology Expo Friday, expected to attract 70 million visitors. The opening ceremony featured action film star Jackie Chan serenading the crowd. 189 countries will take part in the Expo.
AFP - Fireworks illuminated the Shanghai skyline in a blaze of colour as China kicked off the six-month World Expo late Friday with a lavish star-studded opening gala attended by a host of world leaders.
Still basking in the glow of its successful staging of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China is treating the Expo as an equally important showcase for its growing political and economic clout.
From the United States to North Korea, a total of 189 countries will take part in the six-month display of ideas, culture and technology expected to attract at least 70 million visitors -- the vast majority of them Chinese.
"Expo 2010 Shanghai is now open!" Chinese President Hu Jintao declared, after the national anthem rang out in the Expo cultural centre and the flags of all participating countries were paraded through the giant shell-shaped hall.
France 24 correspondent Laura Baines reports from Shanghai's World Expo opening
The gala -- planned by the team behind the opening and closing ceremonies for the Vancouver Winter Olympics -- was a departure from more low-key World Expos in the past, with an all-star line-up.
Hong Kong action film star Jackie Chan serenaded thousands of guests to open the event. Italian pop tenor superstar Andrea Bocelli belted out the aria "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's opera "Turandot".
In a sombre moment, two children orphaned by a massive earthquake that killed over 2,200 people two weeks ago in northwest China appeared onstage in traditional Tibetan dress.
Chinese pianist Lang Lang and the Soweto Gospel Choir from South Africa also performed before leaders including Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Lee Myung-Bak of South Korea were ushered out to the banks of the Huangpu river.
A rainbow of fireworks, searchlights and lasers bathed a 3.5-kilometre (two-mile) stretch of Shanghai's riverfront in colourful light.
Six-thousand glowing LED balls showing images of shimmering fish were released in the water moments before small boats flying the flags of countries participating in Expo paraded downriver.
For the finale, fountains, fireworks and lasers all fired simultaneously to excerpts from Ludwig van Beethoven's "Ode to Joy".
Shanghai World Expo: The pavilions
Australia's pavilion and programmes follow the exposition theme 'Better City, Better Life' by focusing on Australian cities - ranked among the world's most livable. (Photo credit: Suzuki)
The Austrian pavilion is located in zone C, near the Lupu Bridge, close to the Romanian, Dutch and Croatian intries. (Photo credit: Stefano Meneghetti, April 5, 2010)
China's "The Crown of the East" features a distinctive roof made of traditional brackets that date back more than 2,000 years. (Photo credit: Stefano Meneghetti)
Visitors can walk under the arch that divides Egypt's black and white pavilion into two. (Photo credit: Suzuki)
Boasting of a "harbour image" and "dynamic tunnel", the German pavilion is the epitome of the city. (Photo credit: Suzuki)
A world apart from urban German, Iceland is home to many active volcanoes and geysers and the largest glacier in Europe. Its Pavilion is an "Ice Cube" with a back-lit printed fabric on the exterior. (Photo credit: Suzuky)
The facade of Monaco's pavilion features several blue-light rings of water, illustrating the city-state's attachment to its coastal environment. (Photo credit: Stefano Meneghetti)
The Polish entry mixes three elements: man, creativity and the city -- a representation of Polish architecture. (Photo credit: Stefano Meneghetti, April 25, 2010)
The Spanish pavilion is a hand-woven wicker basket structure, supported by the steel framework inside. "The Basket", as some have dubbed the pavilion, is "dressed" in more than 8,000 wicker panels in brown, beige, and black. (Photo credit: Suzuki)
South Korea: The three-story pavilion is composed of 20 basic letters of the ROK alphabet and showcases blueprints for the cities of the future. (Photo credit: Stefano Meneghetti, April 5, 2010)
United Kingdom: Themed "Building on the Past, Shaping our future", the 6000-square-metre UK pavilion is also known as the "Seed Cathedral". (Photo credit: Stefano Meneghetti, April 5, 2010)
United Arab Emirates: The pavilion is a huge golden sand dune inspired by the country's desert. Its outer covering is made of gold-colored stainless steel. (Photo credit: Stefano Meneghetti, April 5, 2010)
Once Expo's gates open to visitors on Saturday, countries and companies will vie to outdo each other in presenting the best they have to offer the world -- with a particular eye on China's market of 1.3 billion people.
Denmark has made a splash by bringing its "Little Mermaid" statue out of Copenhagen for the first time, France has impressionist paintings and Rodin sculptures, while Italy is showing works by Renaissance master Caravaggio.
India is bringing a cast of Bollywood stars and Canada's pavilion will bear the imaginative touches of contemporary circus troupe Cirque du Soleil.
Past Expos are remembered for leaving architectural landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Space Needle in Seattle, and introducing the television and electric lighting to a mass audience.
In Shanghai, the spotlight will be on the cutting-edge design of the national pavilions at the 5.3-square-kilometre site.
Highlights include China's red inverted pyramid, Britain's dandelion-like "Seed Cathedral", Spain's "Big Basket" made of 8,500 wicker panels and Switzerland's three-story-high "meadow" -- complete with chair lift.
China has bolstered security for Expo, deploying paramilitary police, randomly checking foreigners' identification and searching car and rail passengers entering and leaving the city. Ships will also be searched.
Shanghai has spent 400 billion yuan (about 60 billion dollars) in direct and indirect investments preparing for the Expo, according to state media -- more than was spent on the Beijing Olympics.
Human rights groups have protested against the silencing of dissidents ahead of the event, and the apparent denial of accreditation to journalists from a Hong Kong-based newspaper known for its strong pro-democracy stance.
Date created : 2010-04-30