Less than a year after Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics, Shanghai is gearing up for its own mega-event: the 2010 World Expo.
Although the World Expo may have lost much of the luster it had when it was better known as the World’s Fair, and though the global financial crisis drags on, apparently no one has told Shanghai: the city is planning to spend $45 billion, more than was spent on the Beijing Olympics, to upgrade Shanghai’s infrastructure, build new transportation links and create what organizers promise will be the biggest and most extravagant Expo ever.
Architects and city planners say Shanghai is using the Expo as an excuse to go on a huge spending spree that will help stimulate a weakening local economy but also push forward an already breathtaking transformation in this city of 18 million.
“Every city has its own historical moment to transform and develop itself, and now it is Shanghai’s moment,” said Tu Qiyu, a professor of urban studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
The Expo is also advancing a larger government goal of bolstering the economy and turning Shanghai into a global financial center and a world-class city.
The makeover’s scope is spectacular. By the time the six-month-long exposition opens next May, Shanghai will have two new airport terminals, a subway system that is nearly as large as New York’s and a $700 million promenade in its historic riverfront district. New parks, roads and bridges are already opening.