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Interview: Old expo hand has sage advice for Shanghai

Shanghai's upcoming hosting of the World Expo is a "marvelous legacy in the making" that will benefit the city for generations to come, the former head of the 1986 Vancouver Expo has said.

Patrick Reid, who has headed Canadian interests at seven expos around the globe, including Vancouver, the last world's fair held in North America, told Xinhua in a recent telephone interview that he was certain Shanghai would be a "masterful repeat" of what has been done in other host cities.

Reid said the expo has become a "little passe in western nations, particularly in Europe where it has been held so many times," adding that the countries where it will still do extremely well is a country that is developing, powerful, and has economic clout as well as a massive audience.

"China has all those things," said the 85-year-old Irishman from his Vancouver home. "They have never had one before and will be great, I think. The combination of where China is today and where Shanghai is today creates a national receptivity in China and it is magnificent in terms of the site."

Reid, the father-in-law of Rick Hanson, the famed Paralympian athlete who in 1985 undertook a two-year, round-the-world wheelchair trip to raise money for spinal cord injury research, said he had been to Shanghai on three occasions.

As Shanghai had been creating "cities within cities for years," the expo would be a continuation of the same thing, a legacy in itself, observed Reid.

"I was in Shanghai when they were still very worried about whether or not they were going to win the bid to have the exhibition this year. But I assured them at the time, and I was certain at the time and ever since, that they would win the thing because there was so much interest in China in the world, even seven or eight years ago. Now it (the interest) is even more intense," he said.

Much like how the expo is transforming the area around the Huangpu on both sides of the river, the Vancouver expo experience rejuvenated the city's False Creek, previously an "industrial cesspool" as Reid called it.

With Vancouver awarded the expo in 1980 to mark the city's 100- year anniversary in 1986, the site was created on 173 acres of land that was previously industrial wasteland and a rail yard on the edge of the downtown core.

When the site was completed, the expo was opened to great fanfare by England's Prince Charles and Lady Diana, marking the start of the greatest six-month party the city had ever seen.

Among those participating in what was Canada's second expo after Montreal in 1967, were pavilions from 54 countries including China, and three American states.

With attractions such as the Great Hall of Ramses II displaying a host of priceless Egyptian artifacts, food from around the world and a host of big name performers, more than 22 million visitors attended over its six-month run.

Under a theme of transportation and communication, the fair did just that in leaving a lasting legacy of rapid transit -- the first of Vancouver's Skytrain lines was built for Expo '86 -- as well as the Science World, the Canada Place convention center and the B.C. Place stadium.

Following the fair, the expo lands became a political football, mainly for its value and who was going to pay for the clean-up of the polluted land from its previous industrial use. It was eventually purchased by Concord Pacific, a company controlled by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, and developed into luxury housing towers. Today, it is home to thousands and a centerpiece of the city.

Reid called the timing of the expo "vital," essentially putting what was previously a small city on the global map. In February, Vancouver successfully hosted the Winter Olympic Games.

"In the 1980s, Canada, BC, Vancouver, in particular, was opening up to Asia. But there was also a lot of interest in Asia .. . about getting their kids educated here, about coming here to visit, partly a result of Expo '86," said Reid, whose first expo was the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle.


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The World Expo is a large-scale, global, non-commercial Expo. The hosting of the World Expo must be applied for by a country and approved by the international World Expo committee.

The name of the mascot of World Expo 2010 Shanghai China is Hai Bao, which means the treasure of the sea.

The emblem, depicting the image of three people-you, me, him/her holding hands together, symbolizes the big family of mankind.

The theme of Expo 2010 is "Better City, Better Life," representing the common wish of the whole humankind for a better living in future urban environments.


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