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Sri Lanka shines at Shanghai Expo 2010

Since 1851 when the Great Exhibition of Industries of All Nations was held in London, the World Expositions have attained increasing prominence as grand events for economic, scientific, technological and cultural exchanges, serving as an important platform for displaying historical experience, exchanging innovative ideas, demonstrating esprit de corps and looking to the future.


Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne addressing the Expo in China

With a long civilisation, China favours international exchange and loves world peace. China owes its successful bid for the World Exposition in 2010 to the international community’s support for and confidence in its reform and opening-up. The Exposition is the first in a developing country.

Expo 2010 Shanghai China is a great event to explore the full potential of urban life in the 21st century and a significant period in urban evolution. Fifty-five percent of the world population is expected to live in cities by 2010. The prospect of future urban life, a subject of global interest, concerns all nations, developed or less developed, and their people. Being the first World Exposition on the theme of ‘city’, Exposition 2010 has attracted governments and people from across the world. It focuses on the theme “Better City, Better Life”. During its 184-days run, participants are displaying urban civilisation to the full extent, with a view to exchange their experiences of urban development, disseminate advanced notions on cities and explore new approaches to human habitat, lifestyle and working conditions in the new century. The stage is set to give opportunities to learn how to create an eco-friendly society and maintain the sustainable development of human beings.

The Shanghai Expo is a grand international gathering. On the one hand, it has attracted 246 nations and international organisations to take part in the exhibition and is on course to attract 70 million visitors from home and abroad, thus breaking the record set by the Osaka Expo in 1970 with 64 million visitors, ensuring the widest possible participation in the history of the World Expositions. On the other hand, Expo 2010 Shanghai has put China in a global perspective and has done its best to encourage participation, gain understanding and support of various countries and peoples, to turn the event into a happy reunion of people from all over the world.

Besides, Expo 2010 Shanghai offers a wonderful opportunity for cross-culture dialogues. Before the conclusion of the Exposition, a “Shanghai Declaration” will be issued. This declaration, hopefully a milestone in the history of the World Expositions, will symbolise the insights to be offered by the participants and embody people’s ideas for future cooperation and development and extensive common aspirations, thereby leaving a rich legacy of urban development to people throughout the world.

The Chinese Government has gone to great lengths to make the Shanghai Expo a special event that carries on traditions and opens a new vista into the future. The motto is: “Keeping in mind the next 60 years’ development while preparing for the six months’ Exposition.” China counts on the continuing attention, support and participation of all the peace-loving countries.

Today just after two and a half months since the opening, the Shanghai Expo is in full swing. One Commissioner General summed up by saying: “It’s like nothing I have ever seen before, every country on the face of the earth is here, this is an epic event, the site alone is twice the size of Monaco. Out of the 70 million people expected to attend over the next six months, 95 percent will be Chinese, it will be their first opportunity to get an impression of our country, our people, culture and places.”

Although critics argue that in this developing country, US $ 58 billion could be better spent helping the country’s poor, with the theme “Better City, Better Life,” for many nations it’s simply an opportunity to showcase their countries and their cultures to millions of upwardly mobile Chinese, many who have never left the country.

World Expos and major economies


Sri Lanka pavilion at Expo 2010

For those who make even a fleeting tour of the 2010 World Expo, they cannot miss the essentials that have insinuated into and meandered through all the expositions so far. Organisers in Shanghai are therefore as assured as their predecessors, either in educated foresight or calculated retrospect that what are on display at their Expo would be morale-boosting to their visitors for years to come.

That’s perhaps why more and more people aspire to tour the grandiose Expositions of their times, just to get the smack of the lift at least mentally, if not physically.

London - The inaugural 1851 World Expo in London moved even knowledgeable Queen Victoria to exclaim at the grandeur, fantasy and excitement of the event.

Historians hold it that the London Exposition not only raised the curtain on the British Victorian Era, but also epitomised the country’s glory and dream heralded by the Industrial Revolution.

Technological advances not only turned Britain into a world factory, but also made it the most powerful country in the world. The “British Empire” had a quarter of the world population and a fifth of the global land under its reign, at least nominally.

Chicago - The 1933 World Expo in Chicago is better remembered as one that helped the host country to climb out of its 1929-1933 Great Depression.

The Chicago Exposition enabled visitors to get a glimpse into what has come to be known as the “country on wheels” and the makeshift structures at the Expo boosted the development of new building material and construction industries in the country.

Two years after the Chicago Expo, almost all the economic indicators in the United States turned for the better as the country saw its GDP rise from US$ 74.2 billion in 1933 to $ 204.9 billion in 1939.

It was the World Expo in Chicago that placed the host country into the driver’s seat of the global modernisation process as well as a leading role in the global economic development.

Osaka - The 1970 World Expo in Osaka, coupled with the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, served as a morale-booster to the Japanese who finally parted with their shadows of defeat in World War II and moved toward being a rising economic power in the world. These painstaking efforts of two decades lifted Japan into the world’s number two economy, only behind the United States.

As the first to be held in Asia, the Osaka Exposition was hailed as the most successful World Expo with a record attendance of 64.2 million visitors. The Osaka Expo even secured a strong momentum for nationwide economic growth in the next 10 years.

Hannover - The 2000 World Expo in Hannover, Germany drew 150,000 visitors on its opening day. Public interests were trained and glued onto sustainability of development.

Their emphasis on economic and ecological considerations helped secure the German city, its status as the world’s leading exposition host, and ushered in a new round of urban development centered on CBD or central business district, fully-incorporated with the available information technology.

“Grosser Garten” or Great Garden in English, which boosted CBD development throughout Germany, has since developed into a globally-accepted urban planning and sustainable urbanisation model.

Shanghai - Expo 2010 is a chance to showcase China to the rest of the world and the rest of the world to the Chinese.

The 2010 World Expo is a great opportunity to showcase a country’s achievements. Eight years ago, Shanghai won the bid to hold the 2010 Expo. Since then China had been preparing for the magnificent event with precision planning and giving life to structures of the highest quality and aesthetics. The event is not only an unprecedented stage for China to display its economic and technological prowess, but also offers it a chance to learn from the cutting-edge technological and cultural achievements of the rest of the world.

Located in the Yangtze River Delta (YRD) region, Shanghai is China’s most economically advanced and vibrant city, where the stimulus generated by the Expo for the regional economy has been instant. Not surprisingly, the “Expo economy” in the region had heated up even before the event opened.

Wan Jifei, Deputy Director of the Shanghai Expo Organising Committee and Chairman of China International Trade Promotion Committee, says one unit of investment in the exhibition industry could result in nine units of output in relevant sectors. During preparations, the “Expo economy” stimulated 30 percent of the total investment in the YRD region.

The Expo is estimated to drive more than half of the total investment in the region this year. The run-up to the event saw unprecedented advancements in infrastructure construction in Shanghai and its neighbouring areas in addition to the investments in the pavilions and facilities on the 5.28-sq-km Expo site.


South Asian journalists at one of the stalls

The aim of the Expo is more than just economic development. It is a platform for Chinese and foreign cultures to communicate. It is a magnificent platform to exhibit the latest technological and cultural achievements of the entire human race.

Wu Jianmin, honorary president of the Bureau International des Expositions, says the biggest gap between developed and under-developed regions is not the stage of development, but ideas. The biggest backwardness is that of ideas. And the Expo can help China and the other countries to enrich them.

At this Expo, China presents to the world a country with a 5,000-year history, which is enjoying fast development and changes through reform and opening-up. For the host country, it has been said that while the Olympics was China putting on a show for the world, the Expo is the world putting on a show for China. The China Post reported that more than anything, the Expo and the Olympics showed that China is now capable of hosting the biggest international events. The country has planned for a trilogy of great parties in the last two years, a celebration of China’s ascension to the ranks of modern powers. It has become visible with the opening ceremony of the Shanghai Expo 2010 that the final instalment of the three-part act would end on a high note.

The three-part act comprising firstly the Beijing Olympic Games and then the awe-inspiring 60th National Day parade last year and finally the Shanghai Expo 2010, completed the hat-trick of China’s ‘coming-out’ parties. Just as the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the 1970 Osaka Expo signified the arrival of Japan as a post-war power, China’s three parties’ signpost its current place in the 21st century world.

Having spent RMB80 billion on infrastructure construction on the 5.28 square kilometre Expo site, together with some construction of permanent pieces of architecture “such as the national pavilion of China, the Expo Boulevard, the Arts Performing Centre, as well as the Expo thematic pavilion” the Shanghai Expo is well set to continue its objectives after the end of the Expo.

The Urban Best Practices Area (UBPA), a first-time feature of World Expos, has attracted many visitors since the Expo opened. The UBPA is a platform for cities to exhibit and showcase their most successful initiatives of various urban experiences, all of which focus on how to improve the quality of life for residents.

The Expo park is a place where you can indulge all your senses. One can listen to music of five continents and four oceans and see beautiful scenes of art and culture from every corner of the globe. Above all the Shanghai Expo has not failed to impress the visitors’ tastebuds with 128 restaurants dotted around pavilions. The Expo park provides more than 400,000 meals everyday. In addition to feeding the large number of visitors, the Expo meets all tastes with selected delicacies from every part of the world.

Sri Lanka Pavilion at Shanghai Expo

Sri Lanka has been participating at World Expos since 1985 and Sri Lanka became one of the first countries to assure its support and participation and also to sign the participants’ agreement with the Bureau of Shanghai Expo.

At over 2,000 square metres, the Sri Lanka National Pavilion designed by renowned Prof. Nimal De Silva is showcasing Sri Lankan culture, historic cities and products and cuisine while celebrating the friendship and cooperation between Sri Lanka and China. The Sri Lanka Pavilion was opened to the visitors on the opening day of the Expo while many others could not keep to this expected mark.

Features - The ceiling is painted with traditional batik craft and walls are decorated with colourful national flags. Five distinctive cities of Sri Lanka, all of which enjoy a long history, are being displayed in an innovative and artistic way to review their histories. The urban heritage is also presented to enlighten the world on how Sri Lanka has achieved development together with preservation of its cultural heritage.

Walking through the Sri Lanka Pavilion, one can see how, during the early period the cities Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Galle and Kandy were designed and built to accommodate the needs and ambitions of man, at the same time having a deep respect for his environment. It represents a proposal for a better city molded to man’s needs, one that is livable and stimulating, beautiful and efficient.

Sri Lanka seeks to share the experiences of its own cities, which for thousands of years have faced problems in balancing the protection of historical inheritance with the needs of people and urban life.

“If there is something to take away after visiting the pavilion, we hope visitors have a deeper understanding of the Sri Lankan way of life from the passion we have for what we do, to the advancement and originality of Sri Lankan people,” Ambassador Karunatilaka Amunugama said after visiting the Sri Lanka Pavilion. China has caught the world’s attention through Shanghai Expo 2010. For Sri Lanka it is a perfect platform to introduce Sri Lanka to China and encourage more business, trade and cultural exchanges between the two countries, he said.

Attending the opening of the Sri Lanka Pavilion, the Commercial Counsellor said: “I think the Expo presents an important opportunity to increase knowledge of Sri Lanka in China. Sri Lanka is well known for its gems and tea and for its golden beaches and through this Expo we want to show the Chinese and other international visitors, especially the new generation of Chinese born after the 80s what Sri Lanka offers to the world. Today Sri Lanka is in the fortunate position of being at peace once more, meaning that the island that Marco Polo described as ‘the finest in the world’ is fully open for business and even more importantly pleasure once again.”

“I hope the visitors have a deeper understanding of the Sri Lankan culture, food and the creativity of our people, so I invite everyone to visit Sri Lanka,” said the Commissioner General Hubert Jaykody who is a veteran in World Expos, having engaged in more than 10 Expos in the past as Commissioner General. He also serves as a member of the honoured steering committee of the Commissioners General at the Shanghai Expo. Expo 2010, if appropriately utilised will advance Sri Lanka’s foreign and trade policy goals, strengthen economic, diplomatic and cultural ties with China and shape and strengthen the ability to brand ‘Sri Lanka’ in China. The tourism authority should go all out to boost the number of people looking to visit Sri Lanka next year, through special events being planned for the Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

National day of Sri Lanka Pavilion

Sri Lanka Pavilion’s National Day event on July 18 was one of the highlights. Together with Sri Lankan Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne, Deputy Minister of Finance Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Mayor of Shanghai, Han Zheng, Ambassador Karunatilaka Amunugama and other officials of the Embassy and the Sri Lanka Consulate in Shanghai and thousands of Sri Lankans and Chinese invitees marked Sri Lanka Day at Green Hall of the Expo Center. The EXPO 2010 exhibition in Shanghai will be held for six months and will be seen by a large number of people. Organisers expect about 70 million visitors, of whom about 90 percent will be from China. The Expo therefore presents an unprecedented opportunity for Sri Lanka and all participating countries to showcase the potential of tourism.

Therefore, we believe that the Expo presents an excellent opportunity to present Sri Lanka in the world’s most populous country and to promote Sri Lanka as a place to visit for Asian tourists (primarily Chinese).

If we can make use of this opportunity, the investment is sure to provide great benefits to the Sri Lankan economy in the long term.

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