Receipts 25pc short but visitor surge expected
The first month's gate for the World Expo in Shanghai was 25 per cent below the organisers' initial target but they are confident of seeing a surge in visitors this month.
Slightly more than 8 million people visited in the expo's first month, so it will need to average more than 410,000 a day for the remaining 152 days to meet the target of 70 million visitors.
Hong Hao, director of the Shanghai Expo Bureau, said at a press conference yesterday that authorities were preparing for a larger number of visitors this month. He denied a report that one person died on Sunday when thousands of fans mobbed a venue to get tickets for a performance by popular Korean bands.
Although the gate figures for the first week made abysmal reading - only 100,000 visitors a day on average for what is billed as the biggest world expo - things have improved since. The number went up to 200,000 visitors a day in the second week and 300,000 a day for the period of May 21 to 28. Saturday was the expo's best day so far, with 505,100 visitors.
The surge is helped by the generous handout of free tickets - 2.5 million tickets will be distributed by the municipal government, which Hong hopes could translate to about 3 million visits. Primary and middle-school students are also expected to come when their term ends at the end of the month. So far, 40 million expo tickets have been sold.
'The experience of the Aichi [Japan, 2005], Seville [Spain, 1992] and Hanover [German, 2000] expos shows that the biggest visitor days are 21/2 times the daily average figure,' Hong said.
Organisers had announced gates would be locked on any day the number of visitors reached 600,000. Hong said they would try to find out the maximum level the site can hold and possibly revise the figure.
Queues to the most popular pavilions are averaging three hours, but the Saudi Arabia pavilion has had one as long as seven hours, security guards said.
The media reported that many people tried to beat the long queues by pretending to be pregnant women, disabled or elderly people in wheelchairs.
Wang Aiping was among tens of thousands of people waiting outside the Saudi pavilion with her 11-year-old daughter and her parents. They came prepared with portable chairs, fruit and snacks.
'My friends recommended this pavilion,' she said. 'They said it was worth waiting several hours to see its hi-tech Imax screen.
'Although the notice said the queue would be seven hours, my experience at the expo last month told me that it would not be that long before entering the pavilion.'
On Sunday morning, thousands of young people, mainly girls, flocked to the Expo Performance Centre to compete for the 2,500 tickets for a performance by Korean stars, including Super Junior.
About 2,000 people had camped outside the expo gates on Saturday night, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.
Hong was at the spot where the tickets were handed out. 'I saw them sprinting to the performance centre, out of breath,' he said.
'Some of them fainted for a short time, but were sent to the first-aid station immediately. Security guards were at pains to keep order. There was no stampede, not to mention casualties or a death.'
The Iraq pavilion opened yesterday, the last among the 246 participants.