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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 January 2008, 08:28 GMT
Safety worries dominate Toy Fair
By Konstantin Rozhnov
Business reporter, BBC News

Toy Fair characters
Children under 11 years are not allowed to attend the fair
Hundreds of glittering new toys and games for children and adults are on display at the Toy Fair in London. But this year talk about toy safety topped the agenda.

Millions of Chinese-made toys were recalled last year, amid worries about lead levels and loose magnets.

The recalls prompted authorities in China to take measures in an attempt to improve the safety of the toys it exports.

"The toy industry is a global business, and with China producing an estimated 80% of the world's toys, global solutions are required," Ron Gainsford, chief executive of the Trading Standards Institution, said.

The Lego stand
An Indiana Jones figure guards the Lego company's stand

In a further sign of toy safety being an important issue, organisers of the exhibition presented an award to this year's winner of the Playsafe competition during a photo call.

The competition is organised "for aspiring designers of safe toys".

There is no wonder toy makers want to reassure customers, as the global toy and game market is worth billions of pounds.

For example, 16 million die-cast metal toys were sold in 2006, and an average of 219 was spent on toys for every new-born baby, the Toy Fair organisers said.

The continuing fears come as US lawmakers demand the world's biggest toymaker - Mattel - stop selling toys that contain lead, saying that the firm is not sufficiently addressing safety concerns.

No children

The fair, a colourful event with a lot of film and cartoon characters wandering around, does not give the opportunity to hear something that might be expected - children laughing and shouting.

Rocking horses
Rocking horses stand next to robots and toy cars
"Unfortunately children under 11 years are not able to attend the exhibition," the fair invitation states.

The reason is quite obvious: almost all the toys sit on tables and shelves unprotected by glass or barrier.

So on the first day of the exhibition, just a few children were seen in the pavilions, including two boys promoting Tomy's Guitar RockStar, the device with the neck and headstock of an electric guitar and infra-red strings.

Movie-inspired

Aston Martin DBS car
This Aston Martin car was driven by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale
The fair demonstrated how much the film and TV industry influences the toy and game market, and it was not just about Stormtroopers from the Star Wars or cartoon characters posing for pictures with visitors.

The Lego stand, which looks as a castle, was all about Indiana Jones movies, with Indiana Jones figure made from Lego bricks guarding the entrance.

The company, which made a net profit of 1.4bn Danish kroners ($286m, 160m) in 2006, celebrates the 50th anniversary of its famous bricks.

It was introducing its new play sets from the first three Indiana Jones films.

Toy bridge made from Clics bricks
Clics is Lego's rival on the toy bricks market
Corgi, the die-cast models maker, brought the actual Aston Martin DBS car used in filming of the latest James Bond movie, offering visitors an opportunity to pose for photos with it.

And there are more new games to be released later this year that are based on famous TV series and programs, including BBC's Planet Earth and Top Gear.

Beat the robot

The Toy Fair is not just about hi-tech devices featuring cars and robots.

Traditional toys, including rocking horses and models of animals, knights, trees and houses, are also on display.

Stormtrooper from the Star Wars
Stormtroopers pose for pictures with visitors
Some exhibitors decided to find innovative ways to promote very traditional and well-known toys.

Visitors have an opportunity to compete with the RuBot 2, which, it is claimed, can solve any standard jumbled-up Rubik's Cube in around 35 seconds.

The Rubik's Cube is said to remain the best-selling puzzle of all times, with more than 12m Cubes sold around the world in 2007.

So, the exhibition gives a lot of opportunities for parents, teachers and game-lovers to spend their money on innovative and traditional toys and games.

The makers' task now is to make sure there are no new toy safety scandals this year which would scare parents and cut the toymakers' profits.



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