Written by Garima Pant | Sukalp Sharma | Sukalp Sharma | Updated: May 9 2010, 21:39pm hrs
Its an event that has changed the face of the city and heralded the arrival of Chinas largest city and commercial capital at the cutting edge of 21st century urban life. Notwithstanding controversies, the Shanghai Expo has given the citys infrastructure a mammoth $45-billion infrastructure makeover

China and, of late, India are attracting global attention as they host mega events this year. With Delhi slated to hold the Commonwealth Games in October, it brings to fore a stark comparisonon our preparedness to hold the games or even an event of a magnitude as that of the Shanghai Expo. Shanghai has spent $45 billion. Delhi has a budget of about $2 billion. Shanghai has been preparing since it was allocated the Expo in 2002. Delhi has already overshot various deadlines.

AG Krishna Menon, architect and urban planner, feels that hosting an event such as the Expo would require stretching our resources, which could be put to better use somewhere else. Shanghai is expecting almost 70 million visitors during this event. I dont think we will even get a million during the Commonwealth Games, he says, adding, We dont need that kind of hoopla. We are not in that economic or psychological mould.

Architect Gautam Bhatia believes that India would be better off holding a trade event considering our trading and business expertise. Yet there is a problem of pulling things off as we are highly unorganised and lethargic. Even if we get 10 years to prepare for an event, we will only give it our best attention just six months before the event.

Shanghai has gone in for a wholesale facelift. Almost all buildings in the city centre have acquired a fresh coat of paint, including matching covers for their AC units. The citys international airport has got a second terminal and the domestic Hongqiao Airport was revamped. Eight new subway lines are in place. The waterfront walkway has been renovated. Public transport for the city has been overhauled for all of the citys 20 million residents.

World expos have been always full of innovations. From the Crystal Palace, built for the 1851 exhibition, to the Eiffel Tower, these expos have been used by host cities to showcase their economic and cultural might, making them tourist destinations.

An expo has generally been relevant for its times. As more than half the planets people begin living in cities, Shanghais Expo focuses on cities of the future. Environment-friendly building materials make their presence felt at the Shanghai Expo. The Finnish pavilion has about 25,000 scaly shingles made from UPM ProFi, a composite blend of wood fibres and plastic. The giant purple silkworm cocoon of the Japanese pavilion has an intricate exterior layer of flexible solar cells

designed to generate 20 to 30 kw

of electricity. The Expo, which opened last Saturday, has already drawn its share of flak from the West. How it captivates its visitors over the nest few months could determine its future, at least in this century.

Expo time

Considered to be the third-largest event in the world after the FIFA World Cup and the modern Olympics, Universal Expositions or Expos have had an illustrious history.

Their journey began more than 150 years ago with the The Great Exhibition held in The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, in 1851. It set the precedent for the many international exhibitions, later called Worlds Fairs, which were subsequently held to the present day. The idea seems to have originated in the French tradition of national exhibitions, which also resulted in French Industrial Exposition of 1844 held in Paris. This was followed by other exhibitions in Europe and eventually led to the Worlds Fair in 1851 in London.

Similar exhibitions continued to be organised in various cities in Europe and the US, until in 1928, the Convention on International Exhibitions was signed. Since then, the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) has served as an international sanctioning body.

The character of expos has evolved over the years. From industrialisation, trade and technology in 1800s and the first four decades of the 20th century, the expo has come a long way and in the past two decades has taken up themes closer to nation branding.

Many architectural marvels have been created for the expos all over the world. The most famous of all is the Eiffel Tower, which was built for the Exposition Universelle in 1889 in Paris. Other attraction included Londons Crystal Palace, Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne and Space Needle in Seattle, among others.

India incredible

The use of eco-friendly materials has been the core principle of design, architecture and display at the India Pavilion, through use of solar panels, windmill, tree, plants, water cascade, earthen tiles and, above all, the extensive use of bamboo. Over 60,000 saplings, including many herbal medicinal plants, have been used in the roofing panels of the pavilion. Built at a cost of almost $10 million, the pavilion attempts to show the integration between the urban and rural lifestyles of India, says NK Sehgal, GM, ITPO and in-charge of the Indian pavilion. Built over ten months, it presents Indias journey over the ages, says Sehgal.