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Record-Breaker: USA Pavilion draws big crowds at World Expo.

The U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai had a case of "World Expo fever" for most of 2010, preparing for and participating in the Shanghai 2010 World Expo, which its organizers said had the highest attendance of any world's fair.

The Expo ran from May 1 to Oct. 31, 10 times as long as the Beijing Olympics, and hosted a record 73 million visitors. Daily crowds averaged 350,000, with more than a million visitors entering the exposition's park on Oct. 16.

The World Expo featured pavilions with cultural and technological highlights from 246 participating countries, international organizations and corporations. More than seven million people, 43,000 guests daily, visited the USA Pavilion. That's more than 10 times the number of Chinese who will travel to the United States this year.

"In just six months, our pavilion reached more Chinese citizens in a direct people-to-people fashion than the entire China Mission can in a decade or more, even including visa interviews," said Tom Cooney, the consulate general's public affairs officer and deputy commissioner general of the pavilion.

Public-private Partnering

The public affairs section of the consulate general and the State Department worked with a nonprofit organization to design, manage and fund-raise for the pavilion. As a public-private partnership, the pavilion's success rested in large part on the work of Commissioner General Jose H. Villarreal and the Secretary's Global Partnership Initiative, led by Elizabeth Bagley and Kris Balderston. Also essential was the strong support provided by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The pavilion, one of the Expo's most popular attractions, relied on more than 60 sponsors, including Chevron, Citibank, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo and Procter and Gamble. The sponsors hosted hundreds of events with their clients, employees and employees' family members, and several companies sent their chief executive officers, including GE's Jeffrey Immelt and PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi.

"The challenge of making the pavilion a reality was enormous," said Ambassador Villarreal. "Having to raise a $61 million budget completely from corporations and states during the financial crisis was extremely difficult, but we did it believing America must not only show up in Shanghai, but also do it right and with a full program that demonstrated the best of America."

Within the Department, the consulate general worked with a Shanghai Expo Working Group that included representatives from the bureaus of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and East Asian and Pacific Affairs, the Office of Legal Advisor and GPI. Within the consulate general, a Consulate Expo Liaison Team led by the author helped manage the consulate general's role in everything from reviewing film presentations to vetting sponsors and planning National Day events.


Student Ambassadors

PAS Shanghai worked closely with 160 Mandarin-speaking U.S. college students who helped welcome visitors to the pavilion. These "student ambassadors" were often the first Americans many Chinese visitors had ever met, and their fluent language skills and youthful enthusiasm became hallmarks of the USA Pavilion and highlights of the entire Expo.



By the time the pavilion opened May 1, the entire consulate general had become involved. Staff were briefing the student ambassadors, greeting one-third of China's Politburo, arranging visits for Secretary Clinton and three other Cabinet members and supporting hundreds of events, including trade promotions, performances, exchange alumni programs and even a Habitat for Humanity construction project.

"I fully expected the USA Pavilion to be a fabulous public diplomacy platform," said Consul General Bea Camp, "but I did not anticipate the many other ways in which our participation would become a bright spot in the U.S.-China relationship. We chalked up successes in a number of areas, from helping 10 U.S. governors promote their states to generating an immense amount of positive coverage in the Chinese media."


The pavilion also provided unprecedented opportunities for U.S. officials and executives to meet top Chinese leaders in person, from President Hu Jintao on down, in a casual setting. World celebrities also showed up, including actors Robert DeNiro and Halle Berry, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former President Jimmy Carter, Los Angeles Lakers star Derek Fisher and fashion designer Anna Sui. Because the student ambassadors were from nearly every state, the Pavilion's protocol staff was able to make home-state greeters available. For instance, 8 students from Illinois participated in Chicago Mayor Richard Daley Jr.'s visit.


The USA Pavilion, with more than 500 staff and contractors, was built and ready in less than 10 months. Consulate General Shanghai staff played a key role in ensuring that the USA Pavilion was successful.

The online version of the USA Pavilion can be visited at its Web site. The pavilion's popular feature film, "The Garden," is also available online.

The author was the consulate general's Expo liaison officer.
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Author:Spensley, Alys L.
Publication:State Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2011
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