Asian Games

No expense spared for Expo extravaganza

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 April, 2010, 12:00am

The opening ceremony for the World Expo in Shanghai is set to be the 'biggest outdoor entertainment event in history', according to people involved in the preparations.

Contrary to repeated official pledges to hold a 'simple' ceremony with a frugal budget, the city is understood to be sparing no expense to ensure the Friday night show is an extravaganza of jaw-dropping proportions.

The two-hour event will end with a fireworks and lighting show expected to eclipse the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony and outdo the closing ceremony at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 'by a factor of 10'. Shanghai authorities have been tight-lipped about what the opening ceremony will include but told media it would be a relatively understated affair to keep the budget in check.

Shanghai party secretary Yu Zhengsheng said earlier this month the ceremony would include indoor cultural perfomances followed by an outdoor fireworks display. He said the event would contain 'surprises' but would be less extravagant than the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony in 2008.

However, a number of contractors and professionals linked to the show said otherwise, and mainland media yesterday quoted Zhao Weiping, chairman of Panda Fireworks - one of the contractors supplying the display - saying the show would be record-breaking, using 100,000 shells, '20,000 more than the Beijing Olympics'.

The South China Morning Post can confirm the scale of Friday's display will be more spectacular than reported.

The fireworks display is understood to involve 19 barges stationed along a three-kilometre stretch of the Huangpu River, firing 70 shells every second for a period of 30 minutes.

The figures suggest close to 126,000 individual fireworks will be set off, which would almost double the current record.

The Guinness World Records website says the largest fireworks display ever was held in Madeira in 2006 and used 66,326 fireworks.

The lighting show will feature 1,000 computer-controlled seven-kilowatt searchlights.

'These things could reach the moon,' one person connected to the project said. 'Nobody has ever used anything like that many 7,000-watt lights at one time before.'

A further 500 spotlights of 4,000 watts each are also being used in the multimedia show.

The Post understands the Shanghai government and expo organisers have engaged Australian events organiser David Atkins Enterprises to produce the outdoor pyrotechnics and lighting theatrics.

The company directed the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the Doha Asian Games in 2006 and the Vancouver Winter Olympics earlier this year. The company's Sydney office confirmed staff were in Shanghai but declined to give details of what they were working on.

A spokesman for the expo bureau also declined to comment. 'Everything related to the opening ceremony has been designated top secret,' he said. 'We are not allowed to accept any interviews whatsoever.'