[photopress:great_exhibitionopening1851.jpg,full,alignright]Simply because of the Olympics we do not hear too much about the Shanghai Word Expo which falls in 2010. Word Expo’s are very important, attract masses of visitors — millions? — and put a city and a society on display. They can, and do, totally change a city and its perspective of life and the world’s view of that city.
The origin of the idea of a World’s Fair probably starts with the French Industrial Exposition of 1844 held in Paris. But the first serious World Exhibition was that held in London, actually in Hyde Park, in 1851, in a pavilion designed by the Royal Gardener and glasshouse designer.
Prince Albert, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Wellington were all seriously involved in the project which redefined Britain and started to define the character of world expositions. Our illustration shows the Queen opening it. The pictures of the time suggest it was something very grand.
There have been, perhaps, three styles and eras.
First celebrating industrialization. Then cultural exchange. Finally, and the stage we are in now, to use an awful marketing phrase, nation branding. (That is not just the branding of the host nation but also of the nations taking part.)
After the 1949 Stockholm World’s Fair Expos became more strongly based on a specific theme of cultural significance, and began to address issues of mankind. They became more future oriented and ‘utopian’ in scope. At Expo 2000 in Hannover, a program called ‘Projects Around the World’ brought together sustainable initiatives and solutions from all over the globe.
The reason, in the main, why nations exhibit is to improve national image. A survey showed that this was the main motivation in 73% of the countries at Expo 2000. So pavilions became, in a sense, advertising campaigns and none the worse for that.
Now comes the Shanghai 2010 World Expo which will change the perception of China by the world — that perception is already rapidly changing and Olympics 2008 will give it a strong push.
The Shanghai Statistics Bureau reports that spending on fixed assets, including factories, roads and power plants, rose 17.6% to RMB83.8 billion ($10.85 billion) in the first three months of 2007. The growth int the three months outpaces the 10.8% rise for all of last year. Major projects include the second phase of Pudong International Airport, the second phase of Yangshan Deep-water Port and several Metro lines.
Li Mingliang, an analyst at Haitong Securities, said, ‘These transportation projects help keep the real estate market warm, preventing the economy from being choked by a fast decline in the property market.’
But the Expo, as can be written from very direct experience in two of them, will change the pace, the style, the perception of the city, and of the country, for ever. Sorry to wax so lyrical but it is that important. One strongly held and argued view is that it is more important than the Olympics.
Source: Shanghai Daily