Now let the madness begin. On Tuesday this week the flood gates of the official Expo site were opened and 200, 000 excited and over eager tourists poured in for the trial run or ‘soft opening day’ of the World Expo 2010.
With only 8 days to go before the official opening of the Expo, the question on everyone’s mind is ‘are we really ready?’
Courtesy of Shanghaiist reader Josie Horak, the stories and photos from Tuesdays trial run would, I’m afraid, fail to instil confidence amongst even the most optimistic of people.
Firstly and most importantly, only some of the pavilions were actually open for visitors, confirming what we already knew — that many of them are still unfinished and therefore unable to receive visitors.
Of the pavilions that were open, the demand was such that by as early as 11am the waiting time to enter the buildings had already reached 3 hours long. Bearing in mind that only 200,000 people, half the supposed visitor capacity of the site, were present on Tuesday, imagine the probable mayhem that will ensue once there is double the amount of people all keen to make the most of their one day ticket into the Expo.
Then, more mayhem! Outside the Italian pavilion chaos erupted and people began clamouring over each other to get inside as the skies above turned grey and it began to rain.
Surely with Shanghai’s unpredictable weather and rainy season coming up organisers would have thought to have come up with a way to protect those waiting in queues from the wet.
Other queuing related problems that we can predict after Tuesday’s run through revolve around the all important issue of food and drink. Although there is an abundance of cafes and restaurants on site they are sure to be stretched to their limits as bringing your own supplies is not permitted. So, if like me, you enjoy your food, my advice would be to have a big breakfast before entering the Expo site or mentally prepare yourself to fast for the day.
Since most visitors set to visit the Expo are Chinese, most of whom are touring from outside of Shanghai, the culturally rich scene of the Expo is set to be exciting if not a little overwhelming for many of the Chinese groups coming to visit.
Josie tells us that on Tuesday outside the African pavilions, people were crowding around so closely to an African drummer that a child was repeatedly being hit in the head by the drummer’s hands.
In other sections of the Africa pavilion, the staff was nice enough to pose with visitors. But as soon as they turned their backs, people would quickly reach out and touch their braided hair.
Throughout the Expo there are bound to be hundreds of stories like this. Unlike in previous years, organisers, staff and participants will have to brace themselves for culture differences and the general fascination and over excitement coming from Chinese tourists over all things foreign and new to them.
On this note, praise goes out to the volunteers and staff who even with hyper Chinese tourists grabbing and fighting for maps and other Expo goodies were said to have remained calm, polite and very professional. Let’s hope for their sake that they continue to keep a cool head throughout the busy and extremely hot summer days ahead.
Finally, one last thing to draw your attention to. The photo of staff holding hands is not them participating in an Expo performance but is in fact them making a human fence to stop the crowds entering certain areas of the Expo site. Let’s hope organisers have ordered some in, otherwise come October there is going to be a lot of volunteers and staff with very sore arms!
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