After the Show

by on 週三, 27 十月 2010 評論

The Shanghai World Expo is coming to an end… Six months and around seventy million visitors after its launch, what will remain of this mammoth happening?

The most enduring legacy will be the reshaping of Shanghai, the dense metro networks, innovative urban planning and international outlook. Truly, this has been a coming of age event, and its effects will be long term.

Besides this, the event has been mostly a “Fair”, a kind of festival. Chinese people have been coming from afar to get glimpses of world diversity or just to enjoy themselves. For sure, there have been many group visits fostered by work units and other institutions, but it was somehow moving to witness the zeal of individual visitors, quite a number of them elderly people who were seeing in this event a once in a lifetime opportunity. I met with an elderly couple of photographers coming from Chengdu who stayed in Shanghai for a good part of the summer and visited no less that 150 pavilions…. As a reluctant visitor who painfully reached the threshold of 3 pavilions visited and found the experience already rather exhausting, I could not help to feel deeply impressed. Many Chinese coming from far away provinces were rising up at 5am so as to be among the first ones in the queue and were coming home late at night, only to then download pictures and comments on their blogs. Actually, I realized that telling your blog’s readers where you had been and what you had done was a major incentive in realizing such feast of sheer will and energy…

On the other hand, it seems that the foreign audience was much more modest than originally expected. And, for an event focused around green and sustainable cities, the final contribution to the future of city life seems to me remarkably modest. My overall impression has been the one of a show – a rather good show actually – that was played to the benefit and for the contentment of a Chinese audience happy for the “free gift” that such event was representing. The happening was well in line with what the Olympic Game had already been, and as successful in terms of image and organization.

Do world fairs still have a future? There will be other such events after Shanghai 2010, but the genre needs to be renewed. Shanghai has shown the concept’s everlasting attraction as well as the severe limits that such happenings are now meeting with. In any case, the city has now secured a leading role on both the Chinese and world scenes for many more decades to come.

Photo: BV

Paul Farrelly also went to the Shanghai World Expo: he tells us why he didn't go to the Chinese pavilion and why you should go to the South Korean one instead of the Australian one...

Benoit Vermander (魏明德)

Benoit Vermander lives in Shanghai. He teaches philosophy and religious anthropology at the University of Fudan.





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