Shanghai's Expo trials get crowded, rocky start

SHANGHAI (AP) — Visitors to Shanghai's World Expo say organizers have plenty of kinks to iron out before the event — the biggest-ever World's Fair — formally opens on May Day.

"Three big suggestions for fixes: space, time and mindset," the Shanghai Morning Post said Wednesday in the closest China's state-controlled media came to criticizing the Expo's first seven-hour trial run, involving 200,000 people.

"If people weren't lining up, it wouldn't be cool," the Post suggested as the proper "mindset" needed to cope with the long queues that visitors faced.

Visitors said they were disappointed with the food, the long lines and the limited number of pavilions open by the time they finally got through security checks and into the vast Expo park.

"Before I went, I was mentally prepared that it would be very crowded, but it turns out I underestimated," said Ding Yangshen, a 64-year-old retired engineer, who visited the park with his wife using trial-run tickets from his government-worker son.

The Expo, which runs May 1-Oct. 31, showcases the latest in concepts for "Better City, Better Life" in pavilions from practically every country and many international organizations, cities and big corporations.

The event is a landmark occasion for Shanghai, giving China's biggest city a chance to show off its forests of ultramodern skyscrapers and elegant shopping boulevards.

Some 70 million people are expected to visit, and organizers have said they will limit the number entering the park on any single day to 600,000.

For the Shanghainese, who have put up with years of inconvenience from construction of new roads, subway lines and other Expo-related infrastructure, the 10-day trial run will give many a sneak preview of the city's biggest new attraction.

With only a few pavilions participating, many who visited on the first day left frustrated.

Ding left his home in downtown Shanghai at 7 a.m., but spent two hours lining up to get into the park. He said he only had time to spend a few minutes in the USA Pavilion, which was not running its full program, and that it was too late to get into the China Pavilion — the Expo's biggest attraction.

He managed to enter the African Pavilion, but gave up on queuing for any others.

"It was very disappointing, so we had a walk around and just went home," Ding said.

Officials in Shanghai, a city of 20 million, have warned visitors to expect long waits, both in security checks and at the entrances to pavilions.

Around the city, security also has been tightened: subway passengers must have their bags scanned, and vehicles entering the city also are inspected. Police raids earlier this month netted some 6,000 detainees, including dozens of foreigners suspected of being in China illegally or of using illicit drugs, state media reported, citing police.

Photos of Day One of the trials, which was mostly closed to foreign media, show wall-to-wall people in Expo-linked subway stations, security checks and the open plazas of the park.

Thirsty visitors had to buy drinks or bring an empty bottle to fill up from fountains equipped with filtration systems since Shanghai's tap water is, according to locals and the U.S. Centers of Disease Control, unsafe to drink.

By the afternoon, the sinks were heaped with trash and Expo convenience store shelves were empty. With simple meals priced at 38 yuan (about $5.50) and up, many visitors went for snacks instead.

"I wasted two hours waiting for a bowl of noodles. The food is at least twice as expensive as it should be," said a retired woman who gave only her surname, Cai.

Cai left for the Expo park at 5 a.m. but still was unable to get into the China Pavilion, a huge red monument designed to take in only 30,000 visitors a day.

"I am exhausted," Cai said. "In a word, it is not that fun, very inconvenient," she said.


Associated Press researcher Ji Chen contributed to this report.