A magnificent fireworks spectacular, gala performance showcase and star-studded solo acts are set to thrill dignitaries and the viewing public alike Friday evening as the purpose-built Shanghai Expo Cultural Center hosts the much-anticipated opening ceremony of World Expo, ushering in six months of all that is Expo in Shanghai.
"Set against the backdrop of the Huangpu River, accompanied by dazzling fireworks and light displays and participated in by hundreds of thousands of viewers on the spot, it will be an exciting, magnificent yet simple ceremony," said Wan Jifei, chairman of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.
"Culture, technology and development are the themes of Shanghai Expo and will all be highlighted in the opening ceremony," added Zhu Yonglei, deputy director general of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination.
Featuring opera, international pop acts, folk performances and classical pieces, tonight's event is not aiming to be too grand, according to the organizers, the focus instead turning to Expo itself.
Beginning with traditional Expo rituals such as a flag raising ceremony, a parade by participating countries and speeches from officials, Expo Image Ambassador Jackie Chan and famous soprano Song Zuying will open the celebrations with Expo song "Invite the World to Share."
"I will take Expo as a great opportunity to share Chinese music with the world," Song commented.
The opening ceremony will also feature Andrea Bocelli and Japanese pop idol Tanimura Shinji as well as piano sensation Lang Lang.
Traditional folk performances will be prominent, with acts performed alongside state-of-the-art lightening and 3D LED screens.
A Miao and Tu ethnic group will present "Play the Drum and Sing the Song," Suzhou Pingtan will be performed in Suzhou dialect and a group of 30 Dong ethnicity singers will present "Song of the Cicada."
The second part of the evening will see the cultural center's stage transformed into a global village, with performances from across the world including New Zealand, Japan, Lesotho and Italy.
Many foreign leaders have also confirmed their presence at tonight's opening ceremony, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and President José Manuel Barroso of the European Commission, according to Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu.
The last session will promote Expo's theme Better City, Better Life through the involvement of local residents, culminating with the song "Tribute to the Expo" jointly performed by well-known singers of varying genres, Liao Changyong, Tanjing, Sun Nan and Huang Ying.
"I'm expecting an opening ceremony which is innovative and fresh!" said Expo volunteer Xiang Mengyi. "I'm also prepared to be surprised because Expo will demonstrate the latest in technology."
After the performances, a spectacular fireworks extravaganza will light up Shanghai, set against the Huangpu River.
Hundreds of sailboats decorated with the flags of participating countries and organizations will cruise on the water, with the music fountain in Central Square dancing as fireworks take to the skies above.
Every 30 seconds, images of peonies and willows will explode overhead, with heart-shaped fireworks symbolizing love and passion.
According to the organizer, the quantity and design of the fireworks will be better then the Beijing Olympics and much more environmentally friendly. Low carbon, low-smoke and residue-free fireworks are being used to coincide with the green theme of the event.
The 90-minute opening ceremony begins at 8pm this evening and will be broadcast on Shanghai satellite TV station, Dragon TV.
SOURCE: GLOBAL TIMES