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Shanghai World Expo to Go Digital
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Organizers of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo will launch a virtual online version of the expo in a bid to encourage more visitors to the event.

At a recent press conference, officials from the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination provided a first-look at the online project, now a major work in progress.

A demonstration of a three-dimensional graphic of the entire convention hall will be accessible on the website, allowing visitors to "experience" the facilities and exhibitions in a virtual, interactive environment.

An online forum will allow visitors to communicate with each other in real time, and multiple editions with different languages are under development.

Expo organizers expect to showcase a working draft of the project by the end of the year.

After its launch, the online site is expected to attract between 15-30 million daily Internet users during the six-month expo period, according to Zhu Yonglei, deputy director of the bureau. The expo organizer expects the Shanghai World Expo to bring a total of 70 million visitors to the city.

"Some people worry that the online expo will impair the attraction of the real event for visitors," Zhu said.

"We believe that the online expo can never replace the World Expo in the real world, but on the contrary, the online version can help to bring more visitors to the Shanghai expo. It could function as a promotion tool for the real fair and also a guide."

The expo organizer estimates that about 3 million people will be drawn to the Shanghai expo after browsing the website.

"We plan to develop the online expo project with the cooperation of international participants and display their pavilions and exhibitions on the Internet according to their own needs," Zhu said.

Countries and foreign organizations participating at the Shanghai expo are encouraged to contact the organizers should they wish to have their exhibitions included in the online version.

The online expo website will be launched to the public on January 1, 2010, but many of the exhibited items will only be available on the Internet after the event begins five months later.

The organizers also said they want to develop some expo-themed online games to go with the website.

(China Daily March 21, 2007)

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