Countdown Shanghai: Five pavilions you just can’t miss

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The Independent Online

The finishing touches are this week being applied to the more than 200 pavilions that will combine to form Shanghai's World Expo 2010.

That number makes it the largest event in Expo's 159-year history. And from April 20, the first members of the public - up to 500,000 of them per day, according to Expo organizers - will be shown around the 5.28 square kilometer site on test runs, getting the first glimpse of what the whole world wants to see.

Once World Expo opens on May 1, no tour will be complete without taking in the China Pavilion ( which, as you might expect, has been allotted the largest space in Shanghai (160,000 square metres) and has been built at an estimated cost of 1.5 billion yuan (164 million euros).

It's impossible to miss, with a main tower rising 69 meters, and the pavilions will boast exhibitions and cultural performances organizers say will explain Chinese values of "harmony, nature and spirit.'' It will also be one of just five buildings remaining - as a gift to the people of Shanghai - once Expo closes its doors on October 31.

There were some worried faces in and around the USA Pavilion ( right up to this week before Citigroup answered the call, providing the final funding to meet the site's estimated $61 million (46 million euros) budget.

And the money looks to be well spent, with the pavilion set to feature a 45-minute video entitled "Spirit of America'' which features the nation's sights and sounds, as well as a "welcome wall'' put together by thousands of Chinese-Americans and some "Hollywood style'' entertainment daily.

The UK Pavilion (, meanwhile, is impossible to miss, looking like a giant pin cushion - that glows in the dark.

At a cost of around 11.2 million euros, it features thousands of fibre-like rods protruding from its core, and they will draw in sunlight and use it to illuminate the site at night.

The pavilion will, over Expo's six months, host street-theater style entertainment daily and feature installations designed under the theme "nature and the city.''

Stunning too is the African Pavilion - representing more than 40 nations and spreading over 26,000 square meters, making it Expo's second-largest site.

Inside you'll find more than 100 exhibits from the continent Africa - including woodcarvings, handicrafts and traditional musical instruments - and there will be daily concerts from troupes representing all the nations on show.

And if it is pure spectacle you are after, the Danish Pavilion ( not only boasts the country's famed Little Mermaid sculpture - transported from its home in Copenhagen harbor - but promises to create a fairy tale world for visitors.

With a lake as its centerpiece, the 20 million euro pavilion will provide bikes for visitors to cruise around on while they experience Denmark's unique blend of city and rural life.

Close to 100 million visitors are expected to attend World Expo over its six-month run and already some 22 million tickets have been sold.