A dancer sheds tears after their last performance at the Shanghai World Expo site October 31, 2010. The six-month exhibition ends on October 31, 2010.[Photo/Xinhua]
China declared its biggest tourism event ever, the Shanghai World Expo, a stunning success Sunday, after introducing a record 72 million visitors to a smorgasbord of cultures and technologies meant to illustrate ideas for urban sustainability.
SHANGHAI,October 31 -- Curtains came down today on the six- month-long 'Shanghai Expo', billed as the biggest and most expensive fair in which almost all countries showcased their concepts and cultures to deal with the rapid urbanisation in line with its theme 'Better City, Better Life'.
Like its inaugural ceremony on May 1 during which top leaders of different countries were present, several heads of government, including Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, attended the valedictory ceremony, where the Expo was formally declared closed by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.
The massive, six-month event aimed at showcasing China's rise as a modern industrial power drew mainly local visitors, many of them ordinary folk from the provinces who flooded into the city by the tour busload-full, cramming the city's hotels, subways and other public places.
They found waits of up to 10 hours for some popular national pavilions, sweltering summer temperatures, long walks and other inconveniences for what could be once-in-a-lifetime direct contact with foreign places and people.
The Shanghai Expo is the first time the event has been held in a developing country, drawing more than 70 million visitors. London hosted the first Expo in the Crystal Palace of Hyde Park in 1851.
Premier Wen Jiabao praised the fair Sunday as a "splendid event" that "truly brought together people around the globe."
Highlights included Denmark's famed "Little Mermaid" sculpture, a rooftop cable car ride above a replica alpine meadow at the Swiss pavilion, famous impressionist paintings from the Louvre at the French pavilion, and entertainment by Cirque du Soleil courtesy of Canada.
"Thanks to the expo, people like me who never would have a chance to go abroad can experience the whole world," said Zou Aiguo, a retiree from Jiangxi province whose son gave him an expo tour as a present.
"It's my first time to Shanghai, the most prosperous city in China, and I'm very excited," he said.
Not everyone was pleased by the event, least of all some of those unhappy with being forced out of old housing to make way for the expo zone, but such criticism gains little traction in a country that vigorously suppresses public dissent.
Striving to make its fair a "green" one in keeping with its motto "Better City, Better Life," Shanghai deployed electric buses and carts and installed energy-saving air conditioning and water filters meant to cut use of bottled water. It also recycled rain water and made use of solar power.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, UN chief Ban said the Chinese government, City of Shanghai and International Bureau of Expositions, which organised the fair, deserve the highest praise as it brought nations together and celebrated global diversity.
"Since May of this year, all around the world, people have been talking about a remarkable, even historic event. I hope that China will be an urban pioneer," Ban said, adding that he looks forward to working more closely with China across the sustainable development agenda.
Calling the event "eye-opening" and "unforgettable", Premier Wen said since the Expo opened on May 1, "undeterred by the searing heat or soaking rain, they (visitors) waited patiently in long lines to witness this much anticipated event... Through such extensive participation, Expo 2010 Shanghai has truly brought together people around the globe."
"Some are new to the World Expo and some do not yet have diplomatic relations with China. Yet they all participated with great interest and enthusiasm. This is a good example which shows that the World Expo is above national, ethnic and religious boundaries," he said.
"The Expo has brought together the Chinese people who wish to learn more about the world and foreign friends who wish to know more about China. Thanks to the Expo, they have forged a strong bond of friendship," he said.
An average 370,000 visitors traipsed each day; it was standing-room only when attendance hit a peak of 1.03 million on October 16.
The 72 million who managed to get to the event surpassed the previous record of 64.21 million visitors who attended the 1970 fair in Osaka, Japan.
The next expo, in 2012, will be in the South Korean port city of Yeosu, with a similar theme of "Green Growth, Blue Economy," or marine-based sustainability.
After that the expo will move to the Italian city of Milan in 2015, with a focus on food safety.
All but a handful of the more than 200 structures built for the expo along the banks of the Huangpu river - former shipyards and steel works destined to become prime real estate - must be dismantled and recycled or otherwise disposed of.
Some pavilions will be moved elsewhere to serve as museums or landmarks.