Following several months of anticipation and seven days of seeing advertisements plastered on everything from billboards to beer bottles, we finally made it to the World Expo. Located in the Marais District in the heart of Shanghai, and consuming more than five square kilometers of prime riverfront property, the 2010 World Expo is something you almost have to see to believe – or at least to fully appreciate. It’s big. With over 190 countries present, the Expo is a smorgasbord of architecture, engineering and culture that can attract as many as half a million visitors a day. Lucky for us it had rained that morning.
As Warsaw students, our natural inclinations (and Center Director) helped gravitate us straight through the organized chaos in search of something sports related. Luckily, the Expo is home to one of the newest, and most elaborate, basketball arenas in the world – The Shanghai Expo Cultural Centre (to be renamed the Mercedes Benz Arena in 2011). However I use the term ‘basketball arena’ loosely here. In all actuality, the arena looks more like a UFO than any sports facility I have ever seen. Constructed at a cost of $270 million, it also has a lot more to offer than any other sports facility I have ever seen. It’s big. In addition to the 18,000-seat basketball arena with 82 luxury suites, the enormous spacecraft-looking building also houses a multi-story shopping mall, six restaurants, a movie theater with six screens, an ice-skating rink, and a full 360-degree exterior viewing deck with amazing sightlines of the city and Expo (among other amenities).
After stopping for pictures in front of the new NBA Store within the arena, we were on our own to explore the Expo. Some of the more popular pavilions, such as the US, Italy, and of course, China, attracted lines of hundreds (if not thousands) of people that lasted upwards of five to six hours. We skipped those. Instead, we opted instead for the less crowded pavilions, such as Peru, Argentina, Egypt, Chili, Mexico and Cuba, which had little to no lines by that time. The exhibits inside were interesting, but what I found most impressive was the exterior architecture and lighting. Pavilions from countries like Malaysia, Sweden, Latvia, Germany and Saudi Arabia (to name only a few), were amazing, but China’s was by far the most impressive. Let’s just say, it’s big.
After being in China for one week, I am beginning to learn they do not do anything small here.
– Anders Isaacson, Warsaw 2011