Thursday June 1 5:54 AM ET
Protests Mark German Expo 2000 Opening
By Douglas Busvine
HANOVER, Germany (Reuters) - Germany's first world fair, Expo
2000, opened Thursday to music from a Brazilian carnival band
and chanting from anti-capitalist protesters.
Just as German President Johannes Rau cut the ribbon for the
public opening of the five-month extravaganza in the northern
city of Hanover, around 100 left-wing demonstrators began
chanting ``Expo No'' beyond a perimeter fence.
Expo 2000, which is expected to lose around $190 million, has
been dogged by controversy ever since it was conceived to
showcase the ``new'' Germany born out of unification a decade
ago. Host city Hanover has a record of anarchist violence.
Police herded the protesters away but there were no arrests.
German and foreign dignitaries ignored the chanting.
Outside, police said Expo opponents flung burning tires on to
the main Hanover-Hamburg railway line, halting trains for
half an hour.
The protesters see the fair as a glorification of capitalism
with its pavilions and exhibits from over 170 nations and
``It's a waste of public money to spend it on VIPs and big
business -- it should be spent on people,'' said one student
demonstrator, who gave her first name as Nina. She sympathized
with German public sector workers who will vote next week
whether to strike for higher pay.
City police confirmed they had searched a camp of anarchists,
known by its occupants as the Faust complex, on Wednesday but
made no arrests and declined to comment on a newspaper report
that they had seized Molotov cocktails.
A police spokesman said there had been an attempt by around
30 demonstrators to block a rail line to the Expo, but the
protest was clear and there was no disruption to transport.
Expo chief Birgit Breuel said in her opening speech: ``The
Expo has been made by people for people -- our guests. It's
not virtual. It's there to touch.''
The Expo grounds -- almost as big as the Mediterranean
principality of Monaco -- filled quickly with visitors, most
of whom had paid $57, nearly double the standard price of
$33, for the experience.
But owing to subdued public interest in the event, Expo
organizers have admitted giving free entry to over 30,000
local schoolchildren and 6,000 Expo building workers to boost
attendance on the first day to more than 100,000.