SHANGHAI, CHINA // Dignitaries gathered today in Shanghai for the opening of the 2010 World Expo, a six-month event aimed at showcasing China's dazzling commercial capital. The Chinese president Hu Jintao led the list of notables set to attend a grandiose evening opening ceremony for China's biggest spectacle since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Other world leaders in Shanghai include the French president Nicholas Sarkozy, the South Korean president Lee Myung-bak and the European commission president José Manuel Barroso.
The Expo opens to the public tomorrow and is expected to draw 70 million people to pavilions from almost 200 nations during its run through October. Hong Kong media said celebrities expected to perform at the Expo opening or otherwise attend events include actor Jackie Chan, concert pianist Lang Lang, opera star Andrea Bocelli and actress Halle Berry. Security in the city, already tight, was ratcheted up further today. The sprawling riverside Expo site was sealed off to all but a few workers, journalists, and VIPs while a helicopter patrolled overhead. Police were stationed on every street corner in the area, while hotels and subway stations required all bags and packages to go through X-ray screening.
While the Expo is broadly popular in Shanghai, some residents of apartments near the site said security measures were growing oppressive. "It's just not convenient to get in and out anymore," said one man, who gave only his surname, Dong. He complained that local wet markets that sold fresh meat and vegetables had been demolished and paved over for Expo parking lots. The security measures are a reflection of Chinese authorities' determination to prevent crimes or disturbances that could mar the event, as well as political protests or criticism of the ruling Communist Party. Expo organisers have also tightly vetted journalists applying to cover the events. Among outlets refused permission to attend was Hong Kong's outspoken Apple Daily newspaper, according to the region's journalists' federation. As tight as security was in Shanghai, however, it still paled in comparison to measures imposed during the Beijing Olympics, when tourist visas were refused or cancelled and the capital cleared of migrants months ahead of the games. * AP