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Shanghai World Expo mascot unveiled
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Shanghai unveiled its mascot for the 2010 World Expo on Tuesday evening, 865 days before the six-month party kicks off.

                                                                Mascot Haibao

The mascot, named Haibao, literally means "treasure of the world". The blue smiling cartoon figure has curly hair and is in the shape of Chinese character 人, or human beings. It was presented during a televised ceremony at the Shanghai Grand Stage in front of an audience of more than 9,000.

"Haibao is a jolly, confident and cute kid," said Shao Longtu, 62, CEO of the Jiumuchuansheng advertising company and head of the mascot design team. "Using a human being as a mascot reflects the spirit of human-orientation, while the color blue stands for water, sea, earth, life, dreams, the future and technology."

The mascot was selected from among 26,655 entries from 21 countries and regions.

In addition, the emblem for the expo resembled the Chinese character SHI, or world. "The mascot is a perfect match for the emblem. It also deepens the expo theme 'Better city, better life', " Shao said.

"Haibao looks like a naughty boy," said 11-year-old girl Xu Lu. "I am eager to buy a doll of it."

To 54-year-old Liu Jinfan, the mascot was beyond her expectation. "I didn't expect it to be human being, but I like the idea. To host the expo and develop the economy, the final goal is the same -- to improve people's lives."

Prakash Gupta, a business consul with the Indian consulate in Shanghai, witnessed the unveiling of Haibao. "Fuwas for the Olympic Games and Haibao for the World Expo. These should both help improve China's image around the world."

Shanghai started soliciting designs for the mascot in January.

A Japanese design expert surnamed Tanaka noted it should be "hard to discern its prototype but with amiability".

The mascots for the last expo held in Aichi, Japan, in 2005 were two forest elves -- the knowledgeable grandpa Morizo and his curious grandson Kiccoro.

The expo, which runs May 1 to October 31, 2010, was expected to draw 70 million visitors, an average of 400,000 a day.

The number of countries and international organizations committed to attending the expo has reached 180 so far, surpassing the previous record held by Hanover, Germany, in 2000.

It was the first time for the event to be held in a developing country since the inaugural fair in London in 1851. Shanghai won its bid for the expo in December 2002.

(Xinhua News Agency December 19, 2007)

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