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Hong Kong Disneyland opens
2005-09-11 20:45:17 


BEIJING, Sept. 12 -- Hong Kong Disneyland, the U.S. Walt Disney Co.'s 11th theme park in the world and first in China, opens Monday.

Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong, who is on a three-day inspection tour to Hong Kong, is scheduled to attend the opening ceremony Monday.

"Hong Kong Disneyland is the first Disney theme park that's modeled so closely to the first Disneyland in California," Jay Rasulo, president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said.

About 1,000 reporters from around the world flew in to cover the opening of the park on outlying Lantau Island, Hong Kong's largest island and about a 30-minute subway ride from central Hong Kong.

Disneyland held a "rehearsal day" Sunday that gave thousands of guests a sneak peak of the park. The day ended with a fireworks show and concert featuring pop stars, including Coco Lee, Joey Yung and Jacky Cheung.

During the past week, Disneyland has given tens of thousands of visitors a sneak peek of the park. The crowds who were allowed to try out the attractions during the "rehearsal days" have complained about long lines at the rides and restaurants.

But Disneyland has refused to lower its maximum capacity of 30,000.

The park estimates that it will attract 5.6 million visitors in its opening year and is expected to draw up to 7.4 million annually after 15 years. About 40 percent of the visitors are expected to come from the mainland, Disney has said.

Walt Disney officials claimed that choosing Hong Kong as the first place of China to build Disneyland has three major reasons: Hong Kong people are wonderful, Hong Kong is a beautiful city and Hong Kong is the richest city in China.

Disneyland has received a generally warm welcome in Hong Kong, and large crowds spent part of their weekend strolling around a long red-brick public promenade outside the park. Grandmothers limped along on canes, mothers pushed strollers and teenage couples held hands as they took in the new scenery.

The park features a pink Snow White Castle and the popular rides found at the U.S. Disneylands, including Space Mountain, Mad Hatter Tea Cups, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Dumbo the Flying Elephant and the Jungle River Cruise. It also features the Broadway-style show "Festival of the Lion King" and daily parades with Disney characters on Main Street, the United States - the park's main strip lined with shops and restaurants.

The US$3.5 billion park is a joint venture between Disney and the Hong Kong government. It employs 5,000 workers - or "cast members" as Disney likes to call them.

The park is a 30-minute subway ride from central Hong Kong, and it's served by its own public rail line - the only one in the world specially built for a theme park. The train has windows shaped like Mickey Mouse's head and the subway cars sport velvet theater seats and statues of Disney characters.

Hong Kong Disneyland is smaller than the other parks at only 121 hectares - a fact that Disney tries not to point out. Some of the thousands of guests who got a sneak peak at the park in the past month complained that it was too small, and Disney has plans to expand it.

The project was announced in 1999 and construction began in 2003. Disney's other parks are Tokyo, Paris and the U.S. states of California and Florida.

The company confirmed that Disney had been talking to the government in Shanghai about opening a park that wouldn't open until at least 2010.Enditem

(Source: Shenzhen Daily/Agencies)

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