It's big, it's back, it's the World Expo: China style

Fri Mar 26, 2010 3:27am EDT
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By Farah Master

SHANGHAI (Reuters Life!) - What's more expensive than the Beijing Olympics, covers a vast territory and is forcing countries and international companies to splash out millions of dollars? It's China's latest publicity project.

If China was serious about creating a legacy after the Beijing Olympics, it is outshining all its past efforts for the Shanghai World Expo, spending $4.2 billion on reinventing the world's exhibition fair as a blowout extravaganza.

While previous expos in Zaragoza and Hanover went largely unnoticed on the global agenda, Shanghai is creating such a promotional ruckus, that countries are going all out to impress an expected 70 million visitors.

"It's for countries to cozy up. For countries like Australia or France, it's make-up money, a tribute to the emperor. They are apologizing for all the trouble caused in the last few years," said Paul French, chief China analyst with retail consultancy Access Asia in Shanghai.

Of 191 countries attending, most are investing record amounts to build pavilions, with governments taking the lead in providing the bulk of investment and heads of state, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, promising to make an appearance.

"The Expo plays in the same league as the Olympic Games and the Soccer World Cup, said Dietmar Schmitz, commissioner general of Germany's Ministry of Economics and Technology.

Germany is spending $67 million on its pavilion which will let visitors sample traditional dishes like bratwurst sausage and Bavarian pork knuckle.

Saudi Arabia's spaceship pavilion, which features desert date palms and a 1,600 square-meter cinema screen (about a quarter the size of a soccer pitch), stands almost fully completed, gleaming against muddy construction rubble at adjacent unfinished sites.   Continued...

<p>A work adjusts a lighting installation inside the Chinese Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo site in Shanghai March 25, 2010. The Shanghai World Expo 2010 is due to run from May 1-Oct 31, with about 70 million visitors expected to attend, according to its official website. Picture taken March 25, 2010. REUTERS/China Daily</p>