China has described its biggest tourism event ever, the Shanghai World Expo, as a stunning success, attracting a record 72 million visitors to the six-month event that ended on Sunday.
Nearly three million people visited the Swiss Pavilion in Shanghai, surpassing expectations of the Swiss organisers, even if technical problems put the main attraction – a chairlift – out of action nearly half the time.
Premier Wen Jiabao praised the fair on Sunday as a "splendid event" that "truly brought together people around the globe."
China spent $4.3 billion on the event and many billions more on improving subways, airports and other public facilities in Shanghai.
The massive, six-month fair was aimed at showcasing China's rise as a modern industrial power. It drew mainly local visitors, many of them ordinary people from the provinces who
flooded into the city, cramming the city's hotels, subways and other public places.
They found waits of up to 10 hours for some popular national pavilions.
The Swiss site contributed to improving Switzerland’s image in China, according to Manuel Salchi of the government organisation, Presence Switzerland, which was responsible for the Swiss pavilion.
Salchi’s main criticism was directed at the company that delivered the chairlift mounted on the pavilion roof, which was not operational 45 per cent of the time. Embarrassingly for the organisers, it was also out of service during visits by government ministers, Moritz Leuenberger and Doris Leuthard.
"We didn’t receive what we ordered,“ said Salchi.
Despite the problems, the China News rated the Swiss pavilion one of the ten best at the Shanghai Expo.
Switzerland’s presence at the Chinese fair cost SFr24 million ($24.4 million), with SFr16 million coming from the government, and the rest private sponsors.
swissinfo.ch and agencies