Smurfs, Bollywood and Bocelli to give Expo star power
Thu, Apr 01, 2010

SHANGHAI - The Smurfs, the Little Mermaid, Bollywood stars, tenor Andrea Bocelli and the acrobats of Cirque du Soleil are part of a colourful diplomatic offensive to win Chinese hearts at this year's World Expo.

Countries have found unusual, and sometimes lighthearted, ways to woo ordinary Chinese at the event in Shanghai - a prime opportunity to leave an impression on the emerging world power's 1.3 billion people.

India hopes its Bollywood spectacular on July 17 will be a highlight of the event. It is bringing in 50 performers, backed by a team of film effects people and choreographers to act out 40 years of classic movie moments.

"People come to Expo not only to see the pavilions, but they are very keen to see what these countries are all about, what these countries want to express," said the head of India's pavilion team, Rajesh Kumar.

"After seeing in real life what they have seen on the screen, I think they will go home with real excitement. It's like watching a match on TV and then going to a stadium. The feelings are different completely," he said.

Expo organisers expect up to 100 million people, 95 percent of them Chinese, to visit the six month-long World's Fair, which begins May 1.

"It is a great opportunity to build a nation's brand and to be close to Chinese people," said Debby Cheung, head of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide in China.

With more than 192 countries vying for visitors' attention, nations are pulling out all the stops.

Denmark's Little Mermaid sculpture was lifted off its perch in Copenhagen's harbour for the first time last week to be the centrepiece of the country's pavilion.

France will use Impressionist masterpieces to woo visitors, and allow couples to take wedding photos in the pavilion's classical French-style garden.

"With the Expo, we're planting a trail of bread crumbs," said Thierry Mathou, France's consul general in Shanghai. "It will be a chance to create synergies, to make an impact."

For its part, Belgium will try to seduce China with a combination of diamonds, sweets - and Smurfs.

"Visitors will be tasting our delicious Belgian chocolates in the format of a Smurf, every day they will be able to win a Smurfette figurine holding a diamond ring," pavilion staff promised in a statement last week.

Other countries have drafted their top celebrities to pitch in.

International best-selling author Paulo Coelho will promote Brazil, while Canada has handed over the design and programming for its pavilion to Cirque du Soleil, one of its best known cultural exports.

Italy will showcase the football players of Inter Milan, the pop-opera vocal talents of Bocelli and paintings by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

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