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China Celebrates Opening of World Expo in Shanghai


China celebrated the opening of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai Friday with fireworks and fanfare. Dubbed the "Economic Olympics," by Chinese officials, at least 190 nations and 50 international organizations will participate in the six-month-long event.

China marked the opening of its historic hosting of the World Expo with a massive multimedia display of sight and sound. Fireworks and lasers lit up the sky, as music from Western to Chinese classics and pop filled the air. A lengthy flat screen television stretched across the bank of the Huangpu River - as boats carrying the flags of all the expos participants sailed past.

Just as the Beijing Olympic Games marched the Chinese capital out on to the world's stage, Shanghai's hosting of the World Expo has given the city of 20 some million its chance to shine.

Wu Jianzhong, an adviser to the World Expo, says that Shanghai's hosting of the event is not only about showcasing China and its power, but an important stage for boosting international ties.

Wu says the World Expo is extremely important for China and that it has high hopes for the event. He says he believes that by hosting the World Expo more countries will understand China and more Chinese will understand the world.

Organizers expect more than 70 million people to visit the expo before it wraps up in late October. Most of them are expected to be Chinese.

The first World Expo or World's Fair was held in London in 1851. The event, or "Great Exhibition" as it was called, was the first to showcase manufactured products.

Past World Expos have led to the construction of several iconic structures around the globe including Paris's Eiffel Tower and Seattle's Space Needle.

China, the first developing country to host a World Expo, has chosen "Better City, Better Life" as its theme. Pavilions will focus on urban development and city life.

Tens of thousands of people poured out onto the streets of Shanghai Friday evening to get a glimpse of the ceremony - albeit from afar.

Only a few got tickets to the event, and security restrictions kept the masses at a distance.

Some like Zhang Zhi, a 29-year-old salesman, gathered at a public square just blocks away from the Huangpu River to watch parts of the ceremony on a large public television.

Zhang says he believes China's hosting of the Expo will have a positive impact on its image in the international arena.

Zhang says it is also an opportunity to bring the technological advances and new ideas on urban development to China.

Dozens of world leaders and dignitaries attended the opening ceremony, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

A delegation from North Korea also attended the opening ceremony. North Korea will have a pavilion on display, the first time Pyongyang has taken part in an Expo.

Shanghai has declared a five-day public holiday to celebrate the event. It has also stepped up security and authorities are determined to keep any crimes or disturbances from upsetting the Expo. Rights groups say that has included a clamp down on protests critical of the ruling Communist Party, even before the Expo's doors opened on May 1.

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