Organizers of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo have this week ushered in the new year by unveiling the building that will sit at the very heart of the event, while also announcing that an innovative "smart card'' will allow the Expo's estimated 70 million vistors to leave their cash at home when they drop by.
January 1 also marks the official opening of the English version of the Shanghai Expo's official website (http://www.expo.cn) as the clock continues to count down towards the opening of the May 1 to October 31 event.
Finishing touches to the Expo Centre were completed on Wednesday and were celebrated with a light show that illuminated the entire Expo complex. The 142,000 square meter Expo Centre will be the main venue for conventions, fourms and ceremonies at the event and it will be one of the few buildings that will remain standing once the Expo is over.
A gathering of national leaders at the venue has been planned to help bring the curtain down on the Expo in October while the building has already been lined up to play host to the annual gathering of Shanghai's branch of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the massively influential gathering which charts the nation's future.
Meanwhile, the Expo's own commerical transaction card has been jointly launched with the help of the state-owned Shanghai Commercial Investment Co Ltd.
Chen Xianjin, deputy director general of the Shanghai World Expo Coordination, told Chinese media the cards would cost 500 yuan (50 euros) each and can have money added on to them at 7,000 location across Shanghai, once the World Expo begins.
The idea, he said, was to free up international visitors from constantly having to exchange currency.
Among the items visitors to the Expo can be expected to pay for are water and other drinks - which will be banned at the entrance - and rides on the guided tours on eight-seater golf-carts.
The card will be on sale at China Post and China Telecom outlets and will be refundable.
The Shanghai Expo will showcase more than 200 pavilions from different countries and organizations during its six-month run.