The Shanghai Expo was never intended to be a money-making operation. However, it is worth looking at how its budget could easily get thrown out of whack if attendance doesn’t improve down at the site.
In the original plans, the Shanghai government said the cost of building the Expo site would reach 18 billion yuan ($2.6 billion), while the operational costs would add up to 10.7 billion yuan.
The infrastructure was paid for by a 7.15 billion yuan fund from the local government, the issuing of 8 billion yuan of Expo bonds (I wonder who the lucky buyers were) and another 2.85 billion yuan of "bank loans and project finance".
The operations cost, according to the original plan, covers site maintenance, the opening and closing ceremonies, marketing costs, security, admin, insurance and so on. That cost was going to be covered by ticket sales and sponsorship. The shortfall of 1 billion yuan was going to be guaranteed by central government.
The Expo was expecting to raise 9.61 billion from this, with 6 billion yuan coming from ticket sales and 2.9 billion from sponsorship.
If you divide the 6 billion yuan by the daily ticket price of 150 yuan, it shows the original estimate was not that 70 million people would buy tickets, but that around 40 million would.
However, judging by the attendance figures of the past few days (780,000 over five days), the number of tickets may not add up to that much. If you extrapolate the current attendance, it looks like between 25 million and 30 million people will go to the Expo. Of those, probably two-thirds or so will be paying customers, so ticket revenues will come in at 3 billion yuan.
Which would leave the central government with a 4 billion yuan shortfall, rather than a 1 billion yuan shortfall, which is a big enough headache that someone in Shanghai is likely to get a serious dressing-down.