SHANGHAI, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- More than 50 incumbent heads of state or government have expressed intention of visiting Shanghai to see the World Expo that is scheduled for May 1 to Oct. 31, organizers told Xinhua Thursday, which witnessed the 100-day countdown for the six-month-long mega event.
Five trial operation activities will be held at the end of April to check up exhibition pavilions, security and volunteer arrangements, visitor services and logistics for the Expo, sources with the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination said.
The whole city would be motivated for the last trial, and 500,000 people will take part in the drill, the sources added.
EXPO AS ECONOMIC PROPELLER
To date, 192 countries and 50 international organizations have confirmed their participation in the global feast that usually showcases latest advances of architecture and engineering worldwide.
Despite the global economic downturn, no would-be participants have decided to withdraw from the Expo.
Leo Delcroix, commissioner general of Belgian section at the Expo, said that at a time when the western developed economies remained in recession, a savvy policymaker should grasp the opportunity to be offered by the Expo to make preparations for a new-round growth.
Delcroix said that the world economy needed to take a year and a half to recover, during which the Expo would be held. It would be a good chance to showcase to the rest of the world, he added.
Many future participants used to face with such challenges as crisis effect, currency depreciation and budget slash during their preparation for the Expo. But they hold on. The construction of the U.S. pavilion, which had met difficulties in fundraising, is an example.
The United States signed participation contract as late as last July. Construction of the U.S. pavilion began on July 17, and the topping-off finished in October. On Nov. 16, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a visit to the Expo site and appealed for sponsorship for the pavilion, since U.S. laws prohibit the government from allocating money directly for the Expo activity.
According to Nicholas Winslow, president of the U.S. pavilion, 85 percent of the 61-million-U.S. dollar participation cost has been raised, and the construction work will be completed in early March.
"The pavilion will not be a trade show. It will be an opportunity for America to showcase itself to the world," Winslow said.
The Saudi Arabian pavilion, which costs more than 1 billion yuan (146.6 million U.S. dollars), will be completed in mid February. Designed jointly by Saudi Arabian and Chinese architects, the pavilion symbolizes "the marine Silk Road" from China to the Western world, and will witness the largest human and financial resources the Arabic nation will ever put into the Expo activity.
Russia used to participate in world expo by renting an exhibition venue. But this time, it spent more than 1.5 billion rubles (52.8 million U.S. dollars) to build its own pavilion.
WHAT SHANGHAI IS PREPARING
Zhong Yanqun, deputy head of the executive committee of the Shanghai World Expo, told Xinhua that of the 42 self-built foreign pavilions, 35 had begun decoration. Construction on another 42 rent pavilions and 11 joint pavilions has completed and exhibition arrangements have started inside them.
"We request that all self-built, rent and joint pavilions have their exhibition arrangements finished by the end of March," Zhong said.
It is estimated that around 70 million people will visit the Expo site, surpassing the 64-million-visitor record set at the Osaka Expo 1970, which will be a challenge to Shanghai's transportation and accommodation systems.
According to the executive committee, most new traffic construction projects for the Expo, including the central ring road and new subway lines, have been completed and open to traffic, and ferry and streetcar lines across the Huangpu River will be completed within three months.
More than 90 bus routes and five subway lines cross the Expo area, and 42 buses will run within 2.4 kilometers of the area.
A total of 550,000 beds will be available inside Shanghai and another 200,000 beds to be offered in nearby areas for Expo visitors.
In addition, a homestay program will be carried out to ease the tension between accommodation supply and demand.
Zhong said 85,000 square meters of catering areas at the Expo site and 60 restaurants inside foreign pavilions will provide delicious food from around the world for 40,000 visitors every day.
Ninety-five drinking fountains will be arranged to ensure that drinking water available within every 100 meters of walk.
Inside the Expo site, 8,056 public toilet cubicles will be available, or 20.14 ones for every 1,000 visitors if daily accommodation capacity tops 400,000 visitors.
Zhong told Xinhua that for the pavilion of the host and hot destinations, reservation service would be offered to avoid long queues during Expo visits.
Approximately 400,000 sq m of shielding area would be arranged to prevent visitors from exposing to the sunshine in Shanghai's scorching summer, she added.
Thursday's 100-day countdown of the Expo also saw 70,000 volunteers selected from 560,000 applicants ready for training, which is due to begin Friday and last through May 1, for the upcoming massive fair.
The volunteers will serve inside the 5.28-sq km Expo site as interpreters, receptionists, guides and media coordinators. Shanghai is also selecting 130,000 more volunteers to work at 1,000 service sites around the metropolis. They will offer services such as information, interpretation and emergency services outside the Expo site.
As of Jan. 17, more than 18 million tickets had been sold for the Expo.