Flood of weekend visitors pushes Expo to attendance record

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 October, 2010, 12:00am

The Shanghai World Expo park shattered all attendance records this weekend as the multibillion-yuan mega fair struggled to cope with a flood of last-minute visitors.

In what was far and away the expo's busiest weekend, over one million tourists crammed into the 5.28-square-kilometre grounds on Saturday - and a further 745,000 yesterday.

It was standing room only across most of the massive park as fine, cool weather combined with the show's imminent closure brought unprecedented numbers of sightseers out to gawk at the architecture and queue outside national pavilions.

Both days smashed the previous record for single-day attendance at an expo and took the fair's total gate numbers so far to nearly 65.4 million - easily passing the 64.22 million set by Osaka in 1970.

The expo now looks likely to pass its target attendance of 70 million visitors over the six-month run ahead of the closing day, a week from next Sunday.

This weekend's figures were all the more remarkable when compared to the park's lacklustre performance over the seven-day National Day holiday at the start of this month.

Officials had originally predicted the 'golden week' holiday would bring bumper gate numbers but, in the end, attendance was well below average on most days - partly due to the more expensive tickets needed during the presumed peak period.

Coupled with the nearly 628,000 visitors who passed through the park's gates on Friday - just the second time visitor numbers had gone above 600,000 - the past three days came close to matching the 2,474,200 visitors to the expo over the National Day period.

Shanghai resident Xu Ying said she was making her ninth visit to the park yesterday.

'I keep coming back because there is so much to see - and you can only see a small amount in one day,' she said.

'I particularly wanted to visit the UK pavilion because every time I've been before, the queues were much too long. I don't know why, but even though today is so busy it took just slightly more than two hours to get in, which is pretty reasonable.'

There were mammoth queues outside some of the most popular pavilions - particularly Japan, Saudi Arabia and Germany, and above all the Oil Pavilion, which started turning visitors away at 10.30am on Saturday when waiting times reached an estimated 12 hours.

But despite the hordes of visitors, many pavilions managed to maintain a steady flow of traffic.

Tian Yunfei , a migrant worker in Shanghai, said she had to wait only 20 minutes to get into the Dutch pavilion, one of the most popular attractions.

'The exhibits were really cute,' she said. 'Obviously there are a lot of people here today, but it doesn't feel as crowded as I expected it to.'

But many visitors said they were simply there to enjoy the atmosphere. 'We haven't been into any pavilions today,' said Li Ming , a Shanghai office worker accompanying his mother and two aunts. 'The queues are so long that I just don't think it's worth it. I don't think they have much on display anyway, just promotional films. It's much more interesting just walking around the park and tasting the various snacks on offer.'

Liu Can said he and his brother Liu Peng were visiting on a tour from Jilin province , having decided at the last minute to come before the expo finished.

'It's all a bit overwhelming,' he said. 'There are so many people and so much happening around us it is a lot to take in. The architecture and the environment are so different from anywhere I have ever been before.'

Numbers game

Shanghai's World Expo takes over the No 1 spot for world fair visitors

Osaka's attendance record of 64.22 million, set in 1970, falls to Shanghai's total, so far, of nearly: 65.4m