How location-juggling found a place for all

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 May, 2010, 12:00am

A careful inspection of the layout of the World Expo site in Shanghai suggests organisers went through some head-scratching and location-juggling.

With pavilions for almost every country on the planet squeezed into just a few square kilometres of river bank, old rivalries and diplomatic tensions are bound to create potential issues for organisers who were determined the six-month fair should pass without a hitch.

No expo officials were willing to discuss the placement of the pavilions, but a look at the configuration raised an eyebrow or two.

For example, visitors to the Asia section may smirk when they see that the North Korea pavilion - a kitsch delight in itself - has been placed next door to its 'axis of evil' partner, Iran.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but it is telling that their position in the site's easternmost corner is almost as far away as possible from the US at the west gate.

Fittingly, the great towering China pavilion stands midway between the two ends, forming the buffer that its diplomacy does in the United Nations.

More than a decade since their respective handovers, Hong Kong and Macau are safely in China's bosom. Naturally, their pavilions hover almost beneath the China pavilion's eaves.

Taiwan is always a tricky one, but organisers appeared to find an elegant solution - close to the China pavilion, but separated by a broad elevated walkway to give it a semblance of separation.

The European zone, meanwhile, is a lesson in the region's complex history and nuanced national relations.

Greece and Turkey are neighbours who have had their differences in the past but who have started to see eye-to-eye more recently.

Greece even came out in support of its former overlord's application to the continent's top club, the European Union, so it's no surprise expo organisers felt confident enough to sit them together.

The former Yugoslavian states are another matter altogether. Their messy break-up caused pain and turmoil unseen in the region for almost half a century.

Little wonder, then, that Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have been spaced out so far, they form a huge triangle that spans the whole Euro zone.

Tiny Slovenia - the first to fly the Yugoslav nest - is apparently so out of sorts with its former siblings, it isn't even in the Europe section at all.