Anyone who visited Shanghai between May and October 2010 would have encountered a sea of human traffic surging along the Huangpu River. Drawing a record-breaking 73 million visitors, the World Expo 2010 left an indelible mark on the city, which can still be seen today.
Not one to back down in its rivalry with Beijing, Shanghai spent more than its counterpart did in the lead up to the 2008 Olympics. Aside from the cost of clearing out the 5.82sqkm site (twice the size of Monaco), Shanghai’s government spent billions improving infrastructure and public transport.
Roads were widened, six new subway lines were opened, 4,000 extra taxis were let loose on the road, fresh paint was slathered on buildings, truckloads of flowers were put up, city lights were upgraded and the capacity of the Hongqiao International Airport was increased by 60%. In addition, a new portion of the Middle Ring Road was constructed, reducing travel time to the Pudong Airport by 20 minutes.
Transport and amenities aside, sexier vestiges of the Expo still remain. A few months after the Expo, the extremely popular China pavilion reopened to the public for six months. It has since closed again but there are plans for it to reopen as a museum of Chinese history and culture. Since then, the Saudi Arabia pavilion has followed suit, and is open indefinitely.
In September 2011 a commemorative exhibition opened on the site, set to run for two years. You can visit the exhibition en route to the Saudi Arabia pavilion – many of the pavilions are still up, so use the opportunity to take photos of the now-barren exhibition site. It also been reported that the Russian, Italian, French and Spanish pavilions are set to reopen and kept standing for the next 50 years. All this means that travellers can visit the site without 2010’s eight-hour waits.
The onsite 18,000 capacity Expo Performance Centre (where the opening and closing ceremonies were held) has been renamed the Mercedes Benz Arena. It has since hosted several sold-out shows, with the likes of Cirque de Soleil, James Blunt and Usher gracing the stage.
And that is not all. The Shanghai government partnered with the Bureau International des Expositions to build a massive 35,000sqm World Expo Museum. Construction is slated to begin in 2012 with the completion of the museum due in 2015. Expect to see more than 30,000 exhibits from the 2010 Expo.
Of course, the rest of the Expo site is not going to waste either. On top of the museum, a $2.97 billion-yuan site redevelopment is underway. The 47,900sqm site will be home to luxury hotels, exhibition facilities, shopping, dining and entertainment. When the projects are finished in 2015, visitors will be able to walk roughly 10km from the Bund over to the Expo site.
There is also a new vibrancy and buzz to the city. Civic pride, tourist dollars – whatever you want to label it, Shanghai is busier than ever. New restaurants and bars are opening daily. The already popular Taikang Lu shopping area has been expanded, and even World Chocolate Wonderland, a chocolate theme park, is coming to town…chocolate Terracotta Warriors anyone?