When the visitor numbers to the Shanghai Expo hit 70 million on Sunday morning, there were cheers and applause from officials. Yes, it is indeed a great success. However, the celebration was somewhat subdued. That was more or less the right mood.
There was much anxiety months ago about whether the Expo was going to achieve its target estimate of 70 million visitors during the six months, given the 200,000-300,000 patrons a day at that time.
So measures were introduced to attract more visitors., an excessive number of visitors in fact, more than 1 million on Oct 16. It has become a serious concern.
I got back to Shanghai 10 days ago to catch a look at the Expo before the curtain closes on Oct 31. More than 600,000 people visited on Wednesday, the day of my visit
What it means is that I did not get to enter any of the pavilions since most of them would require hours just standing in long line. It scared me away.
Compared with those who rushed there in the early morning and queued for six or eight hours for one individual pavilion, I seem to be a lot less passionate.
In fact, my friends who went to the Expo from Beijing and New York did exactly what I did, by staying away from the queues and taking a "leisurely" walk to appreciate the pavilions from the outside.
Of course, I also met local residents who have patronized the Expo five or six times in order to see the most popular pavilions, those of China, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany and Switzerland. Most non-locals cannot afford to pay for multiple trips. The 160-yuan ticket does not seem to deliver what it is supposed to.
Even Shanghai Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng admitted months ago that a relatively low turnout each day might be a good thing because it would give visitors a better experience of the Expo.