The crowds have picked up their souvenirs and have headed off home and the demolitions crews are moving in as Shanghai sits back to reflect on what organisers are claiming has been a record-breaking World Expo.

And while there seems to be some debate brewing over just how what indeed its benefit for China might prove to be - the numbers themselves present a pretty impressive picture.

More than 73 million people passed through the gates of the 184-day event - beating the previous record of 64.21 million set by the 1970 edition in Osaka, Japan - and they were treated to displays from 189 countries and regions. There were helped by more than 600,000 volunteers.

On average, according to mainland Chinese media, there were 370,000 visitors a day on the 5.2- square kilometre Expo site and the most people turned up on October 16 (1.03 million).

China's leaders have been quick to herald the event's positive impact - it had "truly brought together people around the globe,'' Premier Wen Jiabao said and it was a "splendid event.''

Wen was speaking to the state-run "China Daily'' newspaper but the other main English-language daily in the region - Hong Kong's "South China Morning Post'' - questioned whether or not the rest of the world ever really cared about the Expo while suggesting that some of the untold billions spent on fixing Shanghai's infrastructure were used simply to cover over the cracks.

Critics of the event have wondered out loud whether Shanghai's notorious gridlocks will return once the Expo-led travel conditions are lifted.

"There was a very big contradiction between the theme ["Better city, better life"] and the reality of life in Shanghai,'' said Stefan Ali, an assistant professor of the urban planning and design department at the University of Hong Kong.

Regardless, the show - or the Expo in this case - must go on and the next International Expo will be staged in 2012, in the South Korean port city of Yeosu - which has its first website already up and running (http://www.expomuseum.com/2012/).

And its theme will be "Green Growth, Blue Economy", as it hopes to highlight environmental awareness and marine-based sustainability.

MS

 

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