Shanghai Expo 2010: Expo 'soft opening' in pictures. The best and worst . . .

Travel | by Dan Shapiro
Posted: April 20th, 2010 | Updated: September 27th, 2012 | Comments

With just 10 days remaining until the official opening of Expo 2010, thousands of visitors were invited to witness the Expo's soft opening on April 20th. While the grounds are taking shape quite nicely, it's clear that individual pavilions have a long way to go if they're going to be ready by the time the fair opens on May 1.

Although most pavilions still remain closed to the public, China Travel has, in the spirit of judging books by their covers and pavilions by their facades, compiled these photos of the best and worst of the Shanghai Expo soft opening.

Most Like A Tea Cup Ride: Finland

It's large, it's white, it's round, and it looks like a giant cup of tea. Regardless of what the Suomi natives are hiding in the Finland Pavilion, it's bound to draw comparisons to one of Disneyland's most famous rides on an hourly basis.

Perseverance Through Political Turmoil: Thailand

It's been a rough couple months for the Thais. But, despite the King's illness and the constant looming threat of a military coup, the Thai Pavilion is looking sharp. Combining classical temple architecture with beautiful statues and archways, the Thai Pavilion is leading the charge as the top pavilion from any Southeast Asian nation.

Most Unexpectedly Inviting Pavilion: Rwanda

Located inside the Joint Africa Pavilion, Rwanda isn't atop many people's must-visit lists, but the images on display in their pavilion could potentially change all that. One of the few points-of-entry actually open to the public, Rwanda, and the rest of the Joint Africa Pavilion for that matter, have managed to pull their resources together better than many of the large countries spending millions and trillions of dollars. Most Likely To Stop You In Your Tracks: U.K. Composed of thousands of fluorescent light strands, the U.K. Pavilion, is one  the few structures on the Expo site that actually looks even more impressive than the blueprint.    

Pavilion Making The Best Use of Plywood: Poland Inspired by traditional Polish folk art, the Polish Pavilion has one of the most remarkable exteriors of all. Made from laser-cut plywood, it pulls off the feat of looking like a giant paper cut-out.

Least Appropriate Name Award: Netherlands

It may be called "Happy Street," but, on a grey Shanghai day, the Dutch Pavilion still fails to dispel the gloom. If only every day could be as bright and blue as in the promotional flyers.

Most Likely To Attract Misguided Expat Revellers: Colombia and Peru

Colombia and Peru might struggle to shake off their reputation as dens of iniquity, but Sino-South American trade is on the rise, and there's a strong regional presence at the Expo. Some Latin American countries, such as Mexico and Chile have designed their own pavilions, while others are exhibiting in the joint Central and South American Pavilion. Colombia and Peru meanwhile have opted for the middle option of converting pre-built structures to their own needs.  

Most Dangerously Exciting Pavilion: Spain

To judge by all the press photos, the Spanish Pavilion resembles a large collection of doormats, ready to go up in flames at any moment. While the Pavilion's fire resistance is still undetermined, the wicker structure is nearly ready to go, and attracted one of the largest crowds during the soft opening.  

Best Scaffolding: Latvia

Considering how many pavilions remain unfinished, this was actually a very difficult decision, but the Latvian Pavilion is, well, naked on one side. Perhaps the scaffolding is actually meant to be exposed. Runners up include Baltic neighbor Lithuania, South Africa and New Zealand.

Little Country, Big Pavilion: Luxembourg

Tiny Euro-nation Luxembourg has delivered one one of the most magnificent pavilions on the lot. The Luxembourg Pavilion is not only unique in shape and design, but it features a large, multi-level park area and lush greenery. Nearly complete, the Luxembourg Pavilion is also one of the few already open to visitors.

The "Volcano? What Volcano?" Award: Iceland

While it's possible that the after-effects of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano may delay the arrival of a number of Expo visitors, the Iceland Pavilion is ready to go. Simple in design and featuring muted blue tones, the Iceland Pavilion is hoping to not only help the world, and the airline industry, forget about the current aftermath of the volcanic ash, but also help jumpstart a struggling economy in need of all the help it can find.

The Loneliest Pavilion: Cuba

Located all by its lonesome across from the Joint Caribbean Pavilion, the Cuban Pavilion appears to perhaps be suffering from the effects of the US trade embargo.

Country That Clearly Had Better Things To Do: Georgia

Happily enjoying some breathing room away from the Russian Pavilion, the Georgian Pavilion is currently not much more than a room with a window and a sign. Whether or not they decide to actually do much with their space in the Joint Europe Pavilion, the Georgians can at least offer the world a taste of their infamous Khvanchkara wine, reportedly Stalin's favorite.

Biggest Decline From Ancient Times: Egypt They built the pyramids and still haven't finished the facade on the Egypt Pavilion? Oh how Pharaoh would frown upon the execution of this work in progress.

Best Failed Attempt At Hiding The Obvious: Croatia

It was only after some careful research that the casually-dubbed "Red Pavilion" was actually identified as the  property of Croatia. Sign-less, name-less and not even close to completion, the Croatian Pavilion may, with some serious effort, be finished by the closing of Expo 2010.

Biggest Disappointment: Belgium After reading about free chocolate, diamonds and beer, available at the Belgian Pavilion, it was perhaps inevitable we were let down by this outline sketch of an exhibition hall. Nowhere near complete, the Belgian Pavilion has a long way to go to live up to its initial expectations.

Best Benches: Norway

Made from the wood of 15 different indigenous Norwegian trees, as well as Chinese bamboo, the Norwegian Pavilion also boasts the finest wooden benches in all the Expo site. Also among the unfinished group, the Norway Pavilion still has a fighting chance to be complete by May 1.

Beer Goggles Award: Angola

The Angola Pavilion is lookin' good from afar . . .

. . . but she's far from good.

Hands-Down Winner: KFC

Perhaps the most unsurprising discovery of the soft opening was KFC's dominance. With numerous outlets laid across the Expo grounds, almost every KFC featured lines out the door, some boasting waits of nearly 30 minutes. It's still unclear whether Colonel Sanders himself will show up to shake hands and hold babies, but he's already giving Haibao a run for his money. For more on Shanghai Expo 2010, make sure to check out China Travel's ongoing coverage.
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