In Shanghai, On Europe Square
[b]If you’ve been considering touring the globe, why not visit Shanghai’s EXPO-2010, which opened in May? It’ll be much easier and you’ll certainly gain a flavour of the diversity of our world. Of course, you’ll also be able to view Belarus’ stand[/b][b]What is an EXPO?[/b]Unlike most trade fairs, it’s far more than a display of economic achievements. Of course, every country is keen to show itself to best advantage – while ascertaining others’ success and looking for possibilities of sharing knowledge and gaining new partnerships. Similar exhibitions are organised every five years, with the last taking place in Japanese Aichi in 2005, tackling Nature’s Wisdom.
What is an EXPO?
Unlike most trade fairs, it’s far more than a display of economic achievements. Of course, every country is keen to show itself to best advantage – while ascertaining others’ success and looking for possibilities of sharing knowledge and gaining new partnerships. Similar exhibitions are organised every five years, with the last taking place in Japanese Aichi in 2005, tackling Nature’s Wisdom.
Belarus usually shares its tractor production, alongside its world famous BelAZ heavy-duty dump trucks, but this year’s EXPO has a unique theme: urban living. By late 2010, 55 percent of our planet’s population is expected to reside in cities, so the problem of ensuring comfortable urban living is to the fore. The EXPO gives each country the chance to share its own experience on improving the urban environment.
The Shanghai EXPO has already set two records: covering the greatest area to date (5.28sq.km) and boasting the greatest number of participants: 246.
Landmarks in history
Technologies (new and, even, revolutionary for their time) have ‘produced’ world fairs. The first took place in 1851 in London, initiated by British Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, who was keen on progress. It took place in Hyde Park and was known as ‘The Great Exhibition of Works of Industry from all Continents’. Since it was a great success, it was repeated in Paris four years later.
The first EXPOs weren’t organised regularly and were primarily hosted by Europe. However, in 1876, the exposition was held in Philadelphia, and, in 1928, the International Exhibitions Bureau was set up – an organisation covering all international exhibitions.
Until about 1938, industrialisation and new technologies remained the major topic of world fairs. Telephone and television debuted at the World Expo. The New York World Fair in 1939 boasted the topic Building the World of Tomorrow, with the major accent moving from innovations to culture. After WWII, humanity began actively searching for areas of common interest, with Stockholm tackling Sports in 1949.
Since1988’s Brisbane (Australia) fair, the accent has changed again, with the event becoming a platform for nations to improve their image in the eyes of the numerous visitors and other participants. If a country wishes to make a name for itself and promote its attractiveness and potential, it must attend the World Fair. Today, it’s the best venue for creating a national reputation.
Have you seen any surprises?
Shanghai EXPO boasts 140 pavilions: national, regional and thematic, as well as those belonging to international organisations and large corporations. 89 participating countries are competing to attract the greatest number of visitors; therefore, everyone invents something original, stressing their uniqueness. This is the way countries’ reputations are created.
Denmark has decided to bring its most recognisable symbol – the statue of the Little Mermaid. Since its creation in 1913, this is its first foreign trip. Meanwhile, the stone, where she sits in Copenhagen, wasn’t left lonely; the Chinese manufactured and installed an exact copy, inscribed ‘Made in China’.
France has brought original pictures by Van Gogh, Cйzanne, Manet and Gauguin, as well as Rodin and Millet’s sculptures, transporting them on a special charter flight. Meanwhile, the Belgians are so proud of their chocolate that they are creating delicious masterpieces in front of visitors, each in the shape of Chinese landmarks, honouring their hosts. Their major trump card is their diamonds however (Belgium is the world leader in diamond processing); who can resist drawing near their pavilion to admire the selection of sparkling treasures? Last year, Belgium announced a competition for the best knowledge of its country, giving the winner a diamond as their prize.
The facade of Czech pavilion is decorated with pucks, indicating its status in the world of hockey, while Finland has built a sauna in its pavilion. Lithuania has installed a basketball court. Due to Yao Ming playing in the NBA, basketball is popular in China; the national squad is coached by an America-born Lithuanian.
Undoubtedly, the most popular pavilion is Chinese ‘Crown of the East’, decked out in red. China possesses great experience of urban development, having boasted great cities for many centuries, each well-planned and functioning, despite their huge populations. Even now, the Heavenly Empire has announced a contest for large-scale and speedy urbanisation. Economists are concerned that, in 30 years’ time, the country’s urban population will have risen by another 400m. The ‘Crown of the East’ pavilion will remain in China forever, with a museum founded there after the exhibition finishes.
Crossroads of Europe
Belarus’ pavilion has much to surprise and impress visitors, although our budget is relatively small (around $2m). Neighbouring Poland has spent $3m alone on its pavilion construction. Despite our natural limitations, we hope that the Chinese will remember us.
Location is vital both in geography and at the EXPO Park. Our republic is known to boast one of the most favourable European crossroad locations while our pavilion at EXPO is located on Europe Square. We neighbour a big concert stage on one side, hosting performances several times a day, and have a huge restaurant on the other, serving dishes from dozens of different countries. The Chinese say ‘Location is all’ and we agree.
The major theme of the Belarusian display is ‘Building the Future on the Values and Traditions of the Past’. Belarus is celebrating its past, as well as its future and present, showing its economic potential via contemporary electronic and information systems and virtual multi-media technologies. The country is showing the beauty of its nature and cities, in addition to technological and innovative achievements.
“We want to show ourselves as a comfortable European state,” notes the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to China, H.E. Mr. Anatoly Tozik. “We are a country with plenty of clean, good drinking water, pure air for breathing and small, beautiful forests, well-cared for fields and good roads, as well as cosy towns and cities, where people feel comfortable.” We – Belarusians – take all these treasures (air, water and forests) for granted but many other countries (including China, which is threatened by a shortage of drinking water in the near future) lack such resources. Accordingly, we are guaranteed to receive attention (and people may even be surprised).
The facade of the Belarusian pavilion is wonderfully photogenic, with Chinese visitors almost queuing to take photos against its background. It’s decorated with drawings of our cities and towns, as well as native landscapes.
If we ask the Chinese which Belarusians they know, they’ll tell you two names: Lukashenko and Samsonov. Vladimir Samsonov is a famous table tennis player, who has beaten Chinese sportsmen many times in their favourite sport. They are ‘rich’ in ping pong medals. His friendly match against one of the strongest players from China’s national team, scheduled during the exhibition, is likely to arouse great interest. Meanwhile, Beijing Olympic canoeing champions, brothers Andrey and Alexander Bogdanovich, are to conduct joint training with Chinese athletes, giving master classes at the Shanghai Water Sports Centre.
We even have a souvenir shop, offering linen tablecloths and napkins, as well as straw items and other traditional Belarusian crafts. During the first days of EXPO, these were bought with great enthusiasm and we had to considerably increase our orders.
“We’re aiming to organise live music and dance performances at the centre of our pavilion every day,” notes Mr. Tozik. “The Chinese are keen on ethnography, national culture, clothes, music and dance, so I think we’ll attract them with these pursuits. We’ll show our kinship with the Chinese spirit in this way.”
During the six months of the World Fair, Belarus’ pavilion will present all six regions of our country. This marathon was begun by Brest region, followed by Vitebsk region in June and Gomel region in July. August will be dedicated to Grodno region, with Mogilev and Minsk regions being next in line. These will include performances by dance groups and singing bands and, of course, business visits. The first days of the event saw our Belarusians in national costume drawing attention from EXPO visitors. Each delegation will visit the Belarusian pavilion and will go to one of the Chinese provinces to set up contacts and sign contracts. We’re expecting significant results from the image-oriented event.
“Let’s hope that Belarus leaves its mark on EXPO history,” notes Mr. Tozik. We also hope for this and wish success to the World Fair and to the Belarusian pavilion.
By Inessa Pleskachevskaya