World Expo hits halfway – and organizers hope for sunny days ahead

Expo 20210 Shanghai has hit the halfway mark of its sixth month run and organizers say they have learned from their mistakes - and are promising bigger and better days ahead.

World Expo opened on May 1 and will close its doors on October 31 and already more than 30 million visitors have passed through the gates, short of projected figures but more than enough to keep organizers in a positive mood.

Initially it was hoped more than 70 million people would attend Expo but already some problems have made a dint in those expectations - long queues and some nasty weather keeping some people away.

Organizers have allowed more drink vendors into the site, increased shading and "water spray'' areas to keep people cool and have even announced that they will distribute 500,000 free condoms to ensure visitors' comfort - and safety.

They also announced that props and other memorabilia from the Expo's opening ceremony would be put up for auction - a move which proved enormously successful at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Back then, the percussion instruments used in the opening extravaganza sold for 706,000 yuan (80,000 euros) each after an initial price of 13,000 yuan (1,500 euros).

Included in the items up for sale in Shanghai will be 1,800 costumes and 231 sailboats.

With the summer months proving unpredictable - bouncing from belting heat to pouring rain in a day - organizers are also warning that when the weather does settle down, there will be a huge increase in attendance figures.

The advice is to get in quick.

"We've sold out 50 million tickets, and there are still some 20 million people who hold entry tickets, but haven't yet paid a visit to the park, which will put great pressures on visitor capacity at the Expo,'' Yang Xiaodu, a standing committee member of the Shanghai People's Congress, told state media.

http://en.expo2010.cn

MS

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