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As Shanghai Expo opens, construction workers still pounding nails and paving plazas

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“They were irresponsible,” he charged, wiping his face clean of construction dust blowing in the wind from a nearby pavilion – still a shell whose walls had yet to be plastered. “The Chinese contractors took on too much work and they could not finish it on time.”

Struggles with contractors

At the same time, he and others involved in the Expo complained, some of the contractors used their privileged position to demand more money if they were to continue work. “This was a one month job,” he said. “But between the fights day and night with the contractors and the negotiations, it has taken four times as long.”

Some of the problems appear to have arisen because outsiders brought in to manage the construction of national pavilions are unaccustomed to dealing with Chinese builders, who have a reputation for cutting corners and requiring close oversight.

“A lot of the pavilions brought in people with no experience of working with Chinese contractors,” points out Adam Minter, an American journalist and blogger here who has followed preparations for the Expo closely. “That led to all kinds of problems and delays.”

“You need someone who knows how to work the system or you are working against the system,” said the events manager of one European pavilion.

Compounding such problems, said several foreigners planning their nations’ Expo activities, have been frustrating customs delays and unannounced changes in security measures that have repeatedly blocked workers and construction materials at the gates.

“There have been poor communications between the Expo organizers and pavilion directors,” complains the European official. “That has held things up.”

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