At 2pm central European time the most expensive World Expo ever opens its doors in Shanghai.
There will be the usual mix of the vulgar and breathtaking among pavilions of the 191 exhibiting nations, brought under the banner of “Better city, Better life.”
It is a timely theme for the world’s most rapidly urbanising and increasingly environmentally conscious country. Rapid Chinese growth has often been bought at a heavy ecological price, so the Expo is serving up a banquet of recipes for the future with green technology.
Heavy security is in place to keep the estimated 100 million visitors safe over the next six months.
North Korea’s number two Kim Yong Nam, among the first to arrive, was welcomed by Chinese President Hu Jintao. There have been reports China may mediate bilateral talks between the two Koreas at the Expo as South Korea’s leader is also a guest for the opening ceremony.
The British pavilion has created a bit of a buzz; the “seed cathedral” encloses a small meditative space, a far cry from the clichéd expression of power usually employed for this sort of event. It has gone down well, and the “flag garden” blooms that were raised ahead of the ceremony already flutter over the site.