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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Shanghai 2007 (Auto) Horror Show
By Ilan Carmel, April 2007

It began with the common traffic jams a couple of miles away from the venue of the Shanghai 2007 International Auto Show in Pudong. Nothing out of the ordinary in Shanghai, although the lack of police presence on the road not to mention the traffic wardens, symbolized by a total chaos in parking, shouting and honking everywhere, was somewhat menacing.

Anyway, as we marched jubilant with excitement towards the fair grounds we also ignored the ominous swarm of the Chinese masses in families with kids, couples and the elderly, while the organizer promised “trade visitors only” for the first two days of the show. The scenes we encountered approaching the entrance of the fair grounds were worse than what we could ever have imagined. As the massive sign boards in English and Chinese greeted the visitors from home and abroad to the 12th international Shanghai Auto Show, held every 2 years, the masses in their many thousands roamed about without any guidance or direction. There were no sign posts to mark clearly where one should head, no crowd controllers around, except for the main gate, which we finally found after circling the venue.

The typical Chinese scenes of solicitors trying to sell tickets in marked-up prices near the entrance abounded. At 10am the main gates were so over crowded that virtually no one could get in. The crowds, getting increasingly frustrated began pushing and shoving against the few policemen and security guards, who looked rather helpless against the tide of eager auto lovers. Ugly scenes of shouting, fighting soon followed and at which point we decided to try and take another way in. And than, low and behold, another small entrance just popped up between the first and second hall, with a queue that soon amassed also a few thousands and was channeled in at least 3 directions. A “tolerable” amount of shoving and pushing for 20 minutes or so and we found ourselves inside.

Just as we breathed out a sigh of relief the skies opened up and the fair weather gave way to pouring rain. We rushed in to Hall 1 seeking shelter and with the anticipation to be dazzled by the automobile glitz and glamour. However, to our great dismay, the interior turned into real horror trap. As we stood between the BYD Auto and Citroen booths we were shocked and awed by the high pitched decibels blasting from just about every direction. As it turned out, just about every big name who could afford it splashed out money on creating a Chinese style extravaganza, which spells out 1. Skinny models in more than revealing tights smeared all over the cars 2. A sound system equipped to produce the vocal output required for a Metallica concert. 3. A tantalizing periodic show normally made of phlegmatic dancers in ethnic garb of some sort bouncing up and down on the stage to the rhythm of some tacky pop-Latin tune or debouched female string trio who seemed to be paying more attention to swinging their long hairs from side to side than the bows on the strings of their instruments.

The reader of these lines can probably imagine the arduousness discussing business with the Chinese car makers which we, along with the other many foreign trade visitors had to suffer amidst all this organized cacophony. It was virtually impossible to have a real serious conversation even when seating down 10inches from one another. It got so loudly disturbing that a couple of discussions had to be postponed to a more serene time and location.

We naively thought that the horrific saga will end once we leave the fair ground earlier than official closing time, set to 5pm. So an hour earlier we headed to the exit, only to find that our naiveté has, once again been a thorn at our side. The rain was still pouring down hard, accompanied by strong chilly winds. The pavements were covered in puddles mixed with paper mash remains, with no indications to any means of public transportation. The multitudes began swarming outside to find some means of transportation amongst the peddlers selling marked-up low quality umbrellas and the smoke from barbecued meat in between the hordes of cars parked on just about any vacant patch of road or sidewalk.


Only after a couple miles walking in the rain and getting nearly completely drenched did we begin to see some vacant taxis driving up and down looking for customers. An end to our march of torment you may think? Wrong. A coupl of taxis pulled over after we hailed them, and the stories sounded eerily similar: “my meter’s broken, I’ll take you but you need to pay 180RMB-200RMB (normal fair for this distance is 30RMB tops)”. Residents with cars were also becoming entrepreneurial under the severe conditions, trying to hunt for passengers in the wet and dreary weather where no public transportation was available, demanding extortionate prices.

Out of mere desperation we hoped on the next taxi that stopped, nodding our heads when the cunning driver driveled the same tale. Mid-way he asked for the money, feeling a bit courageous we tried to resist the blatant extortion and breaking of the public transportation laws – we threatened to call the police if we are not charged normal fair. The driver shrugged, and suggested we’ll make the call. As he drove around in circles, the impatient police hotline officer suggested we’ll report our grievances to the media. A couple of blocks away we were forced to get off the taxi with our tails between our legs after the police could not provide us with the highly expected protection and the driver defiantly threatened to drive us to the airport instead and leave us there.

Another half an hour passed, standing soaking wet in the rain, trying to flag down another taxi, while they are passing by empty, refusing to take the fair. Again, in a final surge of audacity we jumped on a taxi which just stopped in the traffic lights ahead of us and sat ourselves down. The clearly confused young driver informed us he could not take the fair, because he does not know the address we gave him (right in the city center, 10mins from People’s Square) even when a GPS was sparkingly blinking on his car’s dashboard. Another complaint phone call to his company’s hotline, but of course to no avail, they refuse to help. We had to guide him all the way back downtown.


Now, how difficult is it to create a clear strategy and stick to it, according to the very different types of visitors in such a fair? The organizers seem to have been more interested in selling additional 300,000 tickets or so at 100RMB each to the general public than in promoting a true business environment, even if only in 2 of the 6 days of the fair. Instead they opted to purely and clearly mislead the many foreign companies’ representatives who came to the fair under the promise of “trade visitors’ days” facing a reality which can hardly be seen as anything but disgrace.

If this is the face of the Shanghai 12th international Auto fair in 2007, we should not hang our hopes too high for the 2008 Beijing Olympics or even the 2010 Shanghai World Expo for that matter. China still needs to prove itself in the proper logistical organization of major international events, rather than showcase pure greed motivations.
 

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I see that the Beijing Olympic Organization Commitee has made a terrible mistake of distributing venues all over Beijing. It's going to be a traffic nightmare.
 

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As I see you are in the business, I think you will have to put it down as one of those challenges you have personally overcome and are able to save your customers from going through.

as they say, ............................that's positivetorque.
 

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Shawoom said:
........ a reality which can hardly be seen as anything but disgrace......
A dark cloudy, rainy day can sour anyone's perspective on an event like this, regardless of where it is in the world. China's a work in progress, Mr. Carmel. Lighten up and next time leave your Western frame-of-reference at home.
Hopefully China will always remain uniquely Chinese.
 

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dragin said:
A dark cloudy, rainy day can sour anyone's perspective on an event like this, regardless of where it is in the world. China's a work in progress, Mr. Carmel. Lighten up and next time leave your Western frame-of-reference at home.
Hopefully China will always remain uniquely Chinese.
Perhaps its Mr. Carmels first time in China, coming up to language barriers at every turn (even in big cities like Shanghai) added to pour weather and the usual chaotic (yet managed) Chinese event and you have yourself a situation that would make many a laowai vent his anger.

Its just that this laowai is a journalist and has the chance to rant about it to a wide audience.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Not quite!

dragin said:
A dark cloudy, rainy day can sour anyone's perspective on an event like this, regardless of where it is in the world. China's a work in progress, Mr. Carmel. Lighten up and next time leave your Western frame-of-reference at home.
Hopefully China will always remain uniquely Chinese.
Corrections-

1. The weather aspect was literary tool to spice up the piece and put some additional color into it. As a sophisticated reader should have noticed.
2. The author has been living in China for the past 7 years.
3. The author is a fluent Mandarin speaker with strong abilities in Shanghai- dialect.
4. The writer holds a Master degree in Chinese urban anthropology and of course has throrough knowledge of China's so called "work-in-progress". With all the cultural sensitivity in mind, one is still entitled to make a sensible, well argumented critique of just about any cultural phenomenon.
5. The author does hope that China will improve its negative aspects, while strive to retain its unique cultural backbone. An international event that is characterized by chaos and suffering to visitors which was generated by sheer greed and disregard to internationally acceptable minimum standards, does not qualify as "uniquely Chinese".
6. The authors journalistic qualifications put him in the position of expressing publicly what many felt silently or only expressed privately. Surely that's just the oposite of a disadvantage.
 

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Wow, what a nightmare you had! But exactly what I'd expect in China! The problem is just compounded by the lousy weather, which is unfortunate.

Of the several "events" I've attended in China, they're either over-crowded or nearly empty. The event organizers seems to have no clue on how to organize an event.

Anyway, next time, check the weather forecast before you go (I always do no matter where I go), and if feasible, go on the last day instead of the first.
 

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Don't worry about the Olympics, man. They will pull it off just fine. After all it's "for the world", not just money.:D

I just wouldn't want to be a Beijinger at that time. It will probably be unbearable during the games. There will be LOTS of people to control "the crowds".:nod:
 

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I don't think so........

Real_I_Hate_China said:



I see that the Beijing Olympic Organization Commitee has made a terrible mistake of distributing venues all over Beijing. It's going to be a traffic nightmare.

You know, people said the same thing about Los Angeles in 1984 - that the spreading out of events will make things a traffic nightmare. Well, guess what? There was NO traffic nightmare AT ALL (yes, the usual heavy traffic surrounding the main events.....but NO "nightmare"). And YES, I WAS there during that time (not living there but in the area during the olympics doing performances) so I was on the freeways and I remember very well how GOOD the traffic was during the olympics!! Main events were pretty close together (Olympic Stadium, USC and the Los Angeles Sports Arena were all within walking distance...a LONG walk but no big deal) and other places like UCLA had clusters of events as well. The entire Los Angeles area changed it's standard "mode of operations" during the olympics to adjust to traffic needs - and it worked great. I would say that Los Angeles in 1984 had AT LEAST as many (and probably way more) autos than Beijing does NOW.....SO -

Compare this to Beijing........the map that RIHC posted here is kind of misleading. Yes, the events ARE spread out - but most of the BIG events (opening/closing ceremonies, swimming/diving, gymnastics, etc....) are centrally located in the new Beijing "Olympic Green" (at the top of the map). The olympic village for the athletes is also in the olympic green area - so all of the HIGHEST SPECTATOR TRAFFIC SIGHTS are centrally located in a walking zone that eliminates A LOT of auto traffic on the streets. The events that are more on the perimeter (on the 4th ring road, for example) are the more "obscure" events - venues that have smaller seating capicities which translates to lower levels of auto traffic. Now, let's be honest - the traffic in Beijing WILL be busy......but it WON'T be a nightmare. I've heard that Beijing is probably going to do some of the things that Los Angeles did (limiting commercial truck activity to 12AM-6AM during the olympics, for example) to alleviate traffic problems - smart of them. The entire city is also in the process of being "visitor friendly" - all street and information signs are being updated with proper english (as opposed to infamous "chinglish"), taxi drivers are getting required lessons in basic english, etiquette and even hygiene (no more taxis with the pungent smell of body odor) and there will be literally TENS of thousands of paid and volunteer workers (all of which will be able to speak basic english) to assist spectators.

It's REALLY sad to hear about the nightmare called the Shanghai Auto Show (WONDERFULLY well written article, by the way - kudos to the author) - I reminded myself once again how LUCKY I am to live in such a friendly city as Nanning!! However, comparing this kind of event to the olympics as far as lack of preparedness? I don't think so.....Beijing might be the MOST prepared olympics ever!! Most venues will be finished MONTHS ahead of the olympics and will have competitive events before the olympics to "test run" everything (customer flow in and out, restrooms, concessions, etc.) - and then "fine tune" things if needed. Traffic plans are being prepared, workers are already being hired and trained...........Beijing is almost obsessed with BEING PREPARED!! I think I'd be more worried right now about Shanghai and how prepared IT will be for the world's fair in 2010! :notsure:
 

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LA doen't have the population density of Beijing. And 1984 LA games were a lot smaller than 2008 Beijing games. The problem is that the athletes, coaches, IOC officials, and the press don't travel by subway; they travel by car and bus, and they must go through Beijing traffic jam.

Beijing 2008 is going to be a traffic nightmare for sure
 

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No and yes.................

Real_I_Hate_China said:
LA doen't have the population density of Beijing. And 1984 LA games were a lot smaller than 2008 Beijing games. The problem is that the athletes, coaches, IOC officials, and the press don't travel by subway; they travel by car and bus, and they must go through Beijing traffic jam.

Beijing 2008 is going to be a traffic nightmare for sure

I'll give you 1/2 credit for this answer..........I'm being magnanimous today!! For those involved with the Olympics at a high level (athletes, coaches, IOC people, major media personalities), there will be no traffic problem - the police will simply whisk them there and block traffic on certain streets as needed (I've seen it done - they will use literally hundreds of traffic police and post them on the street for kilometers ahead on the route....on a radio command they will block the cross traffic and clear out any remaining traffic, thereby creating a "clear" street). It works, it's temporary (usually the street in question will only be blocked for 30-60 minutes at a time) and citizens will be expecting it and deal with it. Now.....for everyone else? Yes, traffic COULD be a nightmare - but Beijing is planning many things. Amongst them.....a extended holiday for government workers during the games, limitations in certain areas of the city (surrounding olympic venues) for cars during the games, special olympic traffic lanes for those with permits, restrictions on commercial traffic, etc......ALL aimed at SIGNIFICANTLY reducing traffic during the games. Factories surrounding Beijing will also be shut down before and during the games to improve air quality, new tax laws are now in place to encourage people to buy small, gas friendly (and less polluting) cars and workers are being STRONGLY advised to start using public transportation NOW and leave their cars at home (motorcycles have already been banned from the central areas of Beijing). Beijing wants people to get used to doing these things NOW so it becomes habit, and to continue doing this after the games are over.

It's too early to say if all of these plans will work.......but they ARE already practicing them (during a recent China-Africa summit all government workers were required to use public transportation and police practiced shutting certain roads to move the Africa delegates around). I hope Beijing proves you wrong, RIHC.............BUT you may end up being right!!!
 

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Auto Shanghai

Shawroom is right. Auto Shanghai was a mess. The organizers AND the city did an awful job. The show organizer, a subsidiary of CCPIT (China Council for Promotion of Int'l Trade) has no competion and no need to strive to please. This is always going to be the case as long as China and Shanghai insists on protecting its industries - including its exhibition industry. The only way the exhibitions in China are ever going to be worldclass is if they allow in foreign competition and stop the corruption and monopolization of the exhibitions by the government.

The transportation chaos that surrounded the Auto Shanghai exhibition center, even on good weather days, was completely unnecessary. I've never seen such a lack of control in my life. Shanghai needs to do something about this because it is doing much damage to their reputation. And there's no excuse for letting the taxi drivers rip off visitors like they did. This is a shame on Shanghai.

If the organizer is not going to follow through on promises, on having real trade-only days, etc - then they need to be shamed into letting someone that knows how to run a tradeshow - do it.
 

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Oh cut it with the "western frame of reference" stuff. Awful is awful - no matter where you find it. And Auto Shanghai was an awful mess.
 

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Shanghai Show

Hi!
This was my second and for the foreseeable future, last visit to China.

Okay, I leave my "western frame of reference", but still this was just plain unbearable. In Beijing we encountered three taxi drivers who got lost 5 minutes from the Tiananmen Square - in dowtown Beijing.
In Shanghai we got a taxi driver at the airport at night who tried to come up with some, er.., very interesting prices and then hopped all the red lights and drove into a one-way street from the wrong way. I am not even talking about our experience with our four-star, international hotel in Shanghai. A lost baggage resulted in unbelievable humiliation for us, which I just can't comprehend.
Now onto the Show itself. The writer was spot on. At Great Wall, the noise was insane with ladies in traditional Chinese costumes shaking it to Shakira's tunes. I even recorded this. Right next to it were those headbanging ladies making a horrible rendition of Brahms' Hungarian dances.
At the so-called "press days" - 19-20 April we had to fight, shout, yell, insult and treat the locals in a very bad manner in order to obtain proper press kits. My favourite conversation went like this:
"- Do you have photos?
- English or Chinese?"
where I just couldn't say anything else. I'd like to highlight those Chinese manufacturers where obtaining photo CDs and proper background material was an easy task:
- Changan
- Chery (only Chinese company with an English-language press kit)
- Dongfeng
- SAIC Motor
- Polarsun
- Great Wall
- Huatai

Okay, I am very persistent and we've got what we wanted, but I just can't believe that either you've got to speak Chinese or you've got to have a Chinese translator with you at an "international" autoshow. (We had neither)

I've been to a couple of car shows during my career. Faced stone drunken exhibitors in Moscow. Looked at basic condition in a Balkan country. Had an unfortunate experience at the Detroit Show, where the Internet connection collapsed under the number of users. But Auto Shanghai beat them all.

And then we went to Taizhou and the folks from Gonow restored out faith. Thanks Jason Zhang and your collegaues!

Regards,
Pal
 

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I feel sorry for the author. I should apologized for the Taxi behaivior if it is true.

for any international fairs like that, we do have a lot improvements to do.
 

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I attended the show at this location for the second time (2005/2007). At 1000 m of the show there is a subway station with good connections to the city centre. My hotel is near the central railway station, it takes me about 30 minutes in the subway to arrive there. When I take a taxi, I will be happy to be there in about 2 hours. I walk the last kilometer. It takes hours to find a taxi for this 1000 meters, so I am crazy when I am not walking...
 

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erik (laofan) said:
I attended the show at this location for the second time (2005/2007). At 1000 m of the show there is a subway station with good connections to the city centre. My hotel is near the central railway station, it takes me about 30 minutes in the subway to arrive there. When I take a taxi, I will be happy to be there in about 2 hours. I walk the last kilometer. It takes hours to find a taxi for this 1000 meters, so I am crazy when I am not walking...
I was actually there a week later for the intl. cycle show.

That was quite well organised and every hall was filled with exhibitors and people. Spent a good few days walking around!
 
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