Spain's Zapatero brings World Cup trophy to China

30th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Monday wowed Chinese visitors at the World Expo by bringing something no other global leader has -- the FIFA World Cup.

The trophy became the latest treasure put on show in Shanghai, lining up alongside Denmark's Little Mermaid, French impressionist paintings and a Rodin sculpture, as well as a work by Italian Renaissance master Caravaggio.

"We are very delighted to bring the FIFA World Cup to China. It is something that our country is very proud of," Zapatero said, standing in front of the trophy at the entrance to Spain's wicker-covered pavilion.

Spain won the World Cup for the first time last month with a 1-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final in South Africa.

The World Cup was on display in China for one day only to mark Spain day at the Expo, a six-month showcase of culture and technology seen as the latest sign of the Asian nation's growing economic might.

Visitors snapped photos and debated whether it was the genuine trophy -- under glass behind red velvet ropes with its own dedicated security guard.

"I'm surprised," said Wu Ruoying, 15, admiring the cup with her 75-year-old grandfather, who said the World Cup victory was the reason why they had wanted to visit Spain's pavilion in the first place.

"Is it real? I thought it was fake," said Li Nannan, a 23-year-old from Liaoning province in northeastern China.

Even though China did not qualify for the tournament, Li said he stayed up until four or five in the morning on match nights to cheer for Spain.

"Spanish soccer is both passionate and competitive. If I wasn't too busy at work the next day, I stayed up all night to watch the games," he said.

The gold-plated trophy measuring 36 centimetres (14 inches) tall was due to be taken back to Spain later in the day, where it would resume a national tour in the central city of Toledo, Spanish pavilion officials said.

Winners are awarded a replica trophy that they can hold until the next tournament, while the original solid-gold version of the cup remains in FIFA's possession.

"It's a surprise for us," said Nuria Martine, 47, who was visiting Shanghai from Barcelona with her family. "It's amazing."

"It's a little bit small," her 19-year-old daughter Laura Torres quipped.

Zapatero arrived in Shanghai on Sunday and was due to meet Chinese leaders including Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing on Tuesday before leaving for Tokyo.

Spanish exports to China have grown fourfold since 2000 to more than two billion euros (2.54 billion dollars) last year, but Chinese exports to Spain totalled 15 billion euros in 2009, according to Spanish government figures.

More than 70 million visitors -- most of them Chinese -- are expected to visit Expo before doors close on October 31.

© 2010 AFP

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