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Page last updated at 14:27 GMT, Monday, 3 May 2010 15:27 UK

Problems at Shanghai Expo hit visitor numbers

By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Shanghai

Queues to enter the Chinese pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai on 3/05/2010
Huge queues are believed to have put some people off attending

Visitor numbers for the World Expo in Shanghai, in its first three days of opening, have been far lower than the organisers had predicted.

Some 70 million visitors - mostly Chinese - are expected to visit the enormous site over the six months that the fair is open.

But to achieve this, more than 380,000 people need to visit each day.

So far, the highest number of visitors in any one day has been about 215,000, according to the organisers' website.

The opening of the World Expo was celebrated with a gala that was tightly choreographed and faultlessly executed.

But now, the way the fair is run and its appeal to the masses appears less impressive.

Muted criticism

First there are the queues. At one point this weekend, 25,000 people were waiting to go through security at one of the gates. They were stuck there for hours.

EXPO SHANGHAI
Theme is "Better City, Better Life"
70 million visitors expected, mostly Chinese
192 countries and 50 organisations on show
20,000 cultural performances
First Expo in a developing country
Site is 5.3sq km, twice the size of Monaco
China says cost is $4.2bn - others say costs reached $58bn
Standard day ticket costs 160 yuan ($23: £15)
Runs from 1 May to 31 October

It is a similar story at the popular pavilions.

The British designed their seed cathedral as a quiet space for reflection and contemplation. They did not put anything inside it.

On Saturday, some visitors waited four hours to enter. As one man moaned to me: "That's a lot of waiting to see… well… nothing."

Another complained that Japan forces visitors to watch each part of its exhibition in full before they can move along to the next. He said he had feared he would never be allowed to leave.

To visit the China pavilion, you need a special reservation ticket. On day one, they were all issued in the first five minutes. On day two, the supply lasted longer but ran out just 20 minutes after the park opened.

Not surprisingly, the problems are affecting turnout.

By lunchtime on Monday, 40% fewer people had entered the park than by the same time on Sunday - despite the fact that it is a public holiday here.

As Britain found with the Millennium Dome, when governments build tourist attractions, they do not always produce crowd-pleasing results. British newspapers carped and criticised for months, highlighting each of the Dome's problems.

Here, of course, it is different. The government can rely on its censors to ensure only the Expo's successes will be highlighted. Any criticism will be muted.



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