A countdown clock on the Bund shows 1,263 days remain Tuesday before World Expo 2010 opens in Shanghai.
Nearly 300 representatives from more than 100 countries will meet the organizers of World Expo 2010 Shanghai in the city Wednesday to discuss Expo plans.
The meeting will hear reports on the master plan, construction of pavilions, tax breaks for participants and aid funds for poorer countries wishing to take part. Delegates of 51 countries who've not yet confirmed their participation in the Expo are also present.
The First Participants Meeting for the event will open 18 months ahead of the normal schedule because of the high level of world interest. In the past this meeting has been held two years before an Expo opens.
Shanghai decided to go early because 94 countries and international organizations have already confirmed their participation - far exceeding the city's original goal of 50-70 by the end of this year.
Premier Wen Jiabao sent out the invitations in March.
"According to the convention of the Bureau of International Exhibitions, when the number of confirmed participants reaches a certain level, the First Participants Meeting is due," said Zhou Hanmin, deputy director general of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination.
"Now, with the support from the international community, we've almost achieved half our target and so it is time to host such a meeting," added Zhou.
Among the confirmed participants 12 have appointed a commissioner general, 24 have selected government departments and companies to carry out Expo projects and 16 have sent delegations to China for detailed discussions.
Since January top officials from more than 50 countries have visited the bureau including Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, Gabon President El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba and Argentine Vice President Daniel Osvaldo Scioli.
Hua Junduo, commissioner general of World Expo 2010, said on Tuesday that three reasons explain the great interest in the event.
"First, the rapid development of China and its opening-up policy have been recognized by the world.
"Second, the theme 'Better City, Better Life' appeals to all nations no matter whether they are developed or developing countries.
"Third, the Chinese Communist Party and China's Central Government have given full support to the event."
(Shanghai Daily November 15, 2006)