BEIJING, April 30 (Xinhua) -- With fireworks lighting up the night's sky and electrifying the city, the six-month 2010 Shanghai World Expo opened Friday night to music and dances in a 90-minute inauguration ceremony.
It was destined to be a moment crowded with glamour and splendor when China's metropolis of Shanghai was chosen to host the 41st World Expo almost eight years ago.
A total of 189 countries and 57 international organizations are participating in the event, the biggest number in the history of the exhibition.
Some 20 world leaders were present at the opening ceremony, including Chinese President Hu Jintao, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak.
Addressing the ceremony, the International Exhibitions Bureau (BIE) President Jean-Pierre Lafon said "Better City, Better Life", the chosen theme of the exhibition, must drive people to improve the quality of life for the citizens of both developing and developed countries as the majority of the world's population now lives in cities.
He hoped the Shanghai Expo would contribute to a social awakening so cities might become more sustainable, safer and more harmonious, adding that he wished the event a success.
Following Hu's official opening of the eagerly anticipated event, performances by China's famous pianist Lang lang, Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and many other Chinese and international celebrities embraced the warmth of the audience present and those watching on TV around the world.
A boy and a girl orphaned in an earthquake that shook Yushu county in China's northwest Qinghai Province two weeks ago also featured, wearing traditional Tibetan costumes, when the indoor show came to close in the Expo cultural center on the eastern bank of the Huangpu River.
The ceremony launched a half-year opportunity for all participating nations and institutions to show their best to the world.
The fairy tale nation of Denmark brought the "Little Mermaid" statue out of the country for the first time.
Poland's presentation will focus on the economy and tries to show its image as a modern country, member of the European Union with good prospects of economic development, according to the Polska Times.
France, whose president is the first among the world leaders to come to China for the World Expo, has decorated its pavilion with famous impressionist paintings and Rodin sculptures.
French television BFM and iTele live broadcast the opening ceremony.
BFM's reporter at the scene called the event another festival following the Beijing Olympic Games, as the active participation of countries across the world made it global.
Russian business daily Kommersant said China had invested billions of dollars in the Shanghai World Expo, which was expected to be seen as "a feast symbolizing the revival of China as a world leading power".
The Itar-Tass news agency forecast the Expo would see a record number of both visitors and exhibitors, saying it would become an "unmatched grand meeting" in the 150-year history of World Expo.
Japan's Kyodo News said China had spared no expense in putting on the world's fair, described by Premier Wen Jiabao as the realization of a 100-year dream.
Kuwait's Al-Jazeera TV on Friday broadcast live video clips of the opening ceremony and said the gathering was "spectacular."
The Doha-based channel said the Shanghai World Expo was another important and eye-catching event hosted by China after the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency mentioned that more than 20 heads of state attended the unprecedentedly grand opening ceremony, which was concise, compact and wonderful.
The united performance of Chinese songs and dances displayed the solidarity among nations in China, and Shanghai's beautiful riverside scenes under brilliant lights and fireworks left spectacular, impressive images in people's mind, Yonhap said.
Almost all Pakistani local TV channels have headlined and live telecast the inauguration ceremony.
The country's most viewed channel, "Geo TV", said: "The world's biggest trade expo is being inaugurated through this colorful ceremony full of Chinese culture."
Ethiopian Minister of Culture and Tourism Mohamoud Drir said Friday the opening ceremony was marvelous as China had proved itself during the Beijing Olympics.
It would be an area for all to emulate, he said, adding that he expected the Expo would be a great success.
The Expo provides a chance for cultural exchanges among different countries, said Tanzania Information Services Assistant Director Raphael Hokororo on Friday in a phone interview with Xinhua just after the opening. It would also benefit China's relationship with both African and other developing nations.
Kenya would benefit immensely from the Expo because of its long duration. Because each country has something to offer, it will serve as an ideal market-place for people to showcase their products and also know what other countries in the world offer, said Janice Kibisu, 38-year-old Hotelier in Lavington.
Covering 5.28 square kilometers along both sides of the Huangpu River, the Shanghai Expo, the first held in a developing country, is expected to attract about 70 million visitors from China and abroad.
First held in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London in 1851, there has been 40 World Expos held.
The world fair is governed by the BIE, which was established by an international convention signed in Paris in November 1928.