EXPO OPENS WITH A SPLASH

The whole Royal Family turned out last Friday for the opening of the Zaragoza Expo 2008 by King Juan Carlos. Most of the government ministers, led by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, were also there. For the next three months, Aragon’s capital will be the water capital of the world, as the Expo focuses on Water and Sustainable Development. Until September 14, its organizers expect to welcome as many as seven million visitors – more than 12,400 turned up last Saturday – to visit the stands of more than 100 countries and private corporations and organizations like the Red Cross and Oxfam. They will be entertained by some 3,400 performances given by more than 350 international troupes and talents ranging from Cirque du Soleil to Bob Dylan to Daniel Barenboim. The Expo is less than 90 minutes away from Madrid by the AVE high-speed rail link, and once the visitors arrive at Las Delicias station they can get to the expo site on foot, via taxi or bus – and even by air, in little green and blue cable cars that link the station with the 60-acre site. Water taxis make the trip up the Ebro River from the city centre. As host, Aragon is the only one of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions to get its own pavilion, which was inspired by local basket-weaving crafts; this is particularly evident at night when giant inflatable vegetables rise above its roof. Inside is a multimedia extravaganza that includes the participation of leading Spanish contemporary artists and filmmakers. But the Expo’s signature edifice is the 250 feet tall Water Tower, which houses the giant hanging sculpture “Splash” that captures the kinetic properties of water in motion in solid form. It can be admired from nearly two miles of ramps that wrap around the tower’s interior. The top level offers sweeping views of the entire Expo. Zaragoza was aware of the importance of water to its civic well-being long before the conception of an Expo on water and sustainable development. The city, whose name is a permutation of Caesar Augustus, the emperor who brought the region under Roman control, has three museums that focus on water in the Roman era – the port, the thermal baths and a fairly advanced system of 2,000-year-old water pipes and sewers. For information on Expo Zaragoza 2008, visit www.expo2008j.es. Tickets start at 35 euros a day.

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