Times have moved on since the inaugural event in London’s Crystal Palace, but the World Exposition – or ‘World Expo’ – remains a place where nations engage in economic, scientific, technological and cultural exchanges and display their brightest talents and innovations.
The high regard in which these events continue to be held is reflected in the list of dignitaries – including European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak – whom Chinese President Hu Jintao welcomed at the opening ceremony of Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China on Saturday, 1 May.
The theme of the event, which runs until October, is ‘Better City, Better Life’, signifying China’s growing global influence in the commercial and cultural world.
Barclays is underlining its strong commitment to the rising Asian dragon by sponsoring the UK Pavilion at the event, designed to showcase British creativity and expertise.
The £500,000 sponsorship also complements Barclays strategic relationship with China Development Bank, which provides new opportunities for both organisations to expand their global business.
Sir David Wright, Vice Chairman, Barclays Capital, called the sponsorship “a major opportunity” to push Barclays brand deeper into China.
Sir David explained: “Barclays has been steadily building its business in China since the 1980s. It now has offices in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as running its Asia Pacific operations from its head office in Hong Kong.
“Given Barclays long association with China, we thought it important to use the occasion of the Shanghai Expo to demonstrate our commitment to the Chinese market.
“There is no better and more visible way of doing this than to take on the role of one of the founding sponsors of the UK Pavilion.
“We are pleased to be associated with such an innovative and strikingly designed pavilion and are delighted by the buzz which it has generated.”
In September, Barclays will sponsor a forum, organised by UK newspaper The Financial Times, to discuss the future of finance. Group Chief Executive John Varley has been invited to be a keynote speaker at the event and Robert Morrice, Chairman and Chief Executive of Barclays Asia, will participate in a panel discussion.
Group Chairman Marcus Agius will also visit the event on the UK’s National Pavilion Day on 8 September.
UK Pavilion already a success
The UK Pavilion, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, has already been described as a hit with visitors to the event.
The structure’s uneven plane resembles crumpled paper and symbolises a recently unwrapped gift from the UK to China.
One of the most important features of the pavilion is the Seed Cathedral, where visitors will be surrounded by more than 60,000 transparent acrylic rods containing the seeds of rare plants from Kew Garden’s Millennium Seed Bank Project. Designed the represent the natural diversity to be found in the UK, the rods will act like floating fibre optic filaments, drawing on daylight to illuminate the interior of the pavilion. At night, light sources embedded in each of the rods will enable the pavilion to glow in the dark.
When Expo 2010 draws to a close, Barclays will underwrite the transfer of the seeds to the Kunming Botanical Institute in China’s Yunnan province.
Katherine Dixon, the British economic and political consul in Shanghai, summed up the success of the UK Pavilion to date: “We sent out invitations to some of the most important chief executives in East China and got a wave of acceptances inside an hour.”
Carma Elliot, the British Consul-General in Shanghai, added: “The support of Barclays and our other corporate sponsors will be vital to delivering a set of experiences which are the most memorable of Shanghai 2010.”