SHANGHAI: Shanghai is preparing for the biggest and most extravagant World Expo in history, with billions of dollars allocated and an army of thousands of workers deployed for next year's event.
Authorities have set aside an area twice the size of Monaco for the expo, which is expected to attract 70 million visitors - 95 percent of them domestic - to the bustling financial center starting May 1 next year.
That is 20 times the size of the site used for the last expo in Zaragoza, Spain, and the mainland is hoping the event will again provide it with an opportunity to shine on the global stage, following last year's Beijing Olympics.
"This is the largest project in Shanghai and in China," said Xu Bo, director of the international participation department of the expo, which will run for six months.
Beneath the towering "Crown of the East," the national pavilion, about 10,000 workers are busy digging foundations, pouring concrete and welding the steel exterior onto the expo's futuristic performing arts arena.
The number of workers at the expo site - straddling the Huangpu River that flows through the city's center - is set to double over the next two months, organizers said.
China is powering forward with expo-related investments despite the global economic gloom, with about $44 billion earmarked for extending subway lines, upgrading railways and roads and expanding airport capacity.
"On one hand the timing is bad, but on the other, it's very good," Xu said.
He said the expo would help create jobs and generate revenue for Shanghai but acknowledged some of the 187 countries and regions committed to participating in the event may have to scale back their plans because of economic troubles at home. So far, he said, none have backed out.
Authorities in Shanghai hope a vibrant expo will help boost confidence in the mainland economy at home and abroad, as the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago did for the United States during the Great Depression, Xu said.