SHANGHAI — Hundreds of thousands of visitors waited for hours in the baking sun Saturday on the opening day of the Shanghai World Expo 2010, showcasing China’s rise as a modern industrial power.
Tempers sometimes flared in the long lines and the tedious wait for security checks, but the head of the Expo’s coordinating committee said there were no major problems. “We need to adopt new policies to deal with higher temperatures as the weather changes,” Hong Hao said at the end of the day.
“It’s well worth the wait because the opening day is special,” said Cai Xiu, a Shanghai office worker standing in line outside the fanciful pink bubble-like Japan pavilion, where the wait to enter stretched to four hours.
“There’s no need to go abroad because the world has come to Shanghai,” Cai said.
Like the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the World Expo is showcasing China’s growing economic and geopolitical sway, both to the world and its own public.
“Everything starts at the World Expo, and all things come together at the Expo site,” Jia Qinglin, the ruling Communist Party’s No. 4 ranking leader, told dignitaries Saturday, after a gala fireworks show Friday night.
Over its six-month run, the Expo is expected to draw 70 million people to pavilions designed around the sustainability theme of “Better City, Better Life.”
China is splashing out $4.2 billion on the Expo itself, and many billions more on improvements such as public transit for this city of 20 million people.
The event involves massive security, though commercial-minded Shanghai has kept measures low-key compared with the lockdown imposed for the Beijing Olympics, when tourist visas were canceled and the capital was cleared of migrant workers.
Inside the Expo site, one enterprising man, seeing a niche market among visitors overcome by the scale of the event, was selling a self-published $1.50 guide offering suggestions on best ways to see pavilions, dine and get around the 2 square mile site.
China’s hall, with its massive vermillion roof in the form of an upside-down pyramid, evokes power and grandeur, while Holland’s invited whimsy, with brightly colored panels and plastic sheep statues.
The U.S. pavilion, which got no government funding, struggled to raise financing but succeeded in the end with the help of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who won over many of its sponsors.