The first mega-event that I ever attended was Shanghai’s World Expo in 2010. I was so interested by the concept of having an event that incorporated countries from all over the world that I even wrote about it in my global studies research paper for my study abroad program there. During the five weeks that I spent in China, I went to the World Expo three times and it always interested me how countries chose to portray themselves and the theme of “Better City, Better Life” in their pavilions.
In a conversation that I had with a Chinese student, I got to understand his perpective about the difference between the World Expo in Shanghai and the Olympics in Beijing. While the Olympics showcased China to the world, the World Expo mainly showcased the world to China. A record number of visitors from across the country came with their families to experience the Expo and catch a glimpse of the giant China Pavilion that is now expected to be converted into a permanent museum. Advertising for the event was everywhere, featuring the Expo’s mascot Haibao, a blue figure in the shape of the Chinese character for human.
While the Expo helped to stimulate the tourism industry within China, it also had adverse effects on the community as thousands of families were displaced by making room for the Expo site. One of my TAs for the global studies program told us about how her family had to move to a new house during construction. I think that many of these people were also poorer citizens who lived in slums that Shanghai did not want visitors to see, though I am not positive about that. Another person I talked to did tell me that people were hired to paint certain sides of houses to make them look nicer in preparation for the Expo. He lamented that they only colored the wall facing the street and left the rest unchanged.
As for the Expo itself, it was really interesting to see what pavilions were more popular with the Chinese people. The United States Pavilion gathered long lines, but to me and others from my program, we thought the pavilion was disappointing. It just featured a few videos and ended in a room full of corporate sponsors such as Disney and American Airlines. I had heard somewhere before that Hillary Clinton had trouble getting funds to put into the pavilion and general support from the United States government. My friends and I were a little embarrassed by it, but some of the Chinese people I spoke to said it represented the American dream and spirit. In addition to the representation within the United States pavilion, some corporate sponsors had their own pavilions set up in the Expo. The Coca-Cola Pavilion was one of the favorites of two Chinese men that I interviewed.
I’ll probably go into more detail about various pavilions that I really enjoyed or at least thought were noteworthy sometime in the future, but for now, this will suffice as a good introduction to the Shanghai Expo. Sadly, I missed out on the 2012 Expo in Yeosu, South Korea, which had the great theme of “The Living Ocean and Coast”, but there is always Milan, Italy in 2015.