Staff let their hair down

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 November, 2010, 12:00am

When the curtain came down on the World Expo's saccharine-sweet official closing ceremony in Shanghai on Sunday night, the real party was only just beginning.

Thousands of revellers crammed into national pavilions in an orgy of loud dance music and free-flowing alcohol that went on into the early hours. Pavilion and restaurant staff - many of whom complained of going 'expo crazy' after spending six months in the 5.28-square-kilometre park - used the 184th and final day of the fair as an excuse to let off some steam.

'I feel like I'm a kid on the last day of school. It's one of the happiest days of my life,' cried one bartender on his final shift at the Porterhouse Irish pub.

There has been talk of wild after-hours staff parties throughout the expo - pictures appeared online in July showing people swimming in the Danish pavilion's 'harbour pool' and climbing all over the Little Mermaid statue. But Sunday night's was easily the biggest.

Crowds of inebriated revellers filled the European section of the park, drifting from one bash to another. With the expo's final day coinciding with Halloween, some were dressed as superheroes, sumo wrestlers or ghosts.

It was mostly a young crowd, dominated by the hundreds of university students from around the world volunteering at the expo.

The parties - held in the pavilions' bars or open areas, not their exhibition halls - were meant to be exclusively for holders of expo staff passes, but security staff gave up checking soon after most visitors left the park.

There were looks of confusion at the Spanish pavilion when staff stopped serving drinks just before midnight - normally the time when a night out is starting to get going in Spain. But the Iberian festivities were simply changing venue to a downtown nightclub with an open bar. Party-goers also drank the British pavilion dry shortly afterwards, as staff and volunteers lounged on deck chairs and played soccer on the building's park-like AstroTurf forecourt.

At the Germany pavilion, where the booze flowed for several hours longer than most, bar staff poured plastic cups of draught beer hand over hand to meet demand. Several of the pavilion's staff had paper signs pinned to their chests offering 'free hugs'. 'Just three more days in Shanghai, then I need to go home to Germany to finish my university degree,' said one hug-giver. 'But at least I won't need to smile at a million people tomorrow.'