Shanghai Expo offers sneak peak in trial run

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The Independent Online

Organisers of Shanghai's World Expo gave members of the public a preview of the massive event Tuesday as they tested facilities and public transportation 10 days before the official start.

"The Expo looks great. I want to see all the foreign pavilions today," said Wang Huifen, a 50-year-old hotel employee waiting to enter the huge Expo site.

More than 200,000 people visited the Expo on the first of six preview days before the official May 1 opening after a limited number of preview tickets were issued, an Expo Bureau spokesman said.

For China, the World Expo is the latest showcase of its growing global clout following the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and Shanghai has planned an Expo on an unparalleled scale to show it can rival the world's greatest cities.

The six-month event is set to be one the largest gatherings of humanity, with 192 countries participating and organisers saying they expect up to 100 million visitors.

Only 10 to 15 pavilions were ready for visitors on Tuesday, the spokesman said, as workers scramble to finish work in time for May 1.

A 23-year-old surnamed Cao spread his arms wide, waving Chinese and Expo flags in both hands at a gate in front of the China Pavilion, a 60-metre tall inverted pyramid that towers over the Expo site.

"I am very happy to see Expo finally starting," said Cao, adding he had just arrived in Shanghai from Beijing and planned to sell the flags over the next six months at five yuan (75 US cents) a pair.

Foreign media were not allowed inside the site for the preview.

Fang Qian, 12, got the day off school after her mother's real estate company offered them two of the pink preview tickets the day before.

"I want to see the French pavilion because its design is very special. There's an outdoor restaurant on the top and I've never been to France," Fang said. "I also want to visit the China pavilion."

Mark Germyn, the USA Pavilion's chief operating officer - and the overall operations manager at Vancouver's 1986 Expo - called the preview days a "test and adjust period" for everything from toilets to catering services.

The next trial day is Wednesday, and then four consecutive days beginning Friday.

The trial is a chance to test not only transportation systems within the 5.3-square-kilometre (two-square-mile) riverside site, but also five new subway lines that have been built to help transport visitors to the site.