By Humphrey Carter

BALEARIC President Francesc Antich led the local delegation to the grand opening of the Expo Zaragoza last night.
Antich officially opened the 390-square metre Balearic stand before Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain presided over the inauguration of the event which will continue until September 14.

The theme for Expo 2008 is “water and sustainable development”, hoping to attract 6.5 million visitors and draw world attention to one of the great challenges of the 21st century.

From Saturday, the public can visit the 140 pavilions from 102 countries at the 25-hectare site, which includes an aquarium and a museum housed in a new river bridge designed by Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid. Around 5'000 shows are also planned, including a concert by Bob Dylan on June 23. Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian-based circus troupe, will perform every day along the main avenues of the site.

The Expo intends to make visitors reflect on the problems associated with water, or the lack of it.
Several zones have particular themes, such as “sharing water” or “thirst”.
The “Water Platform” will stage debates on economic, social and environmental aspects of water throughout the world.
Around 2'000 experts from across the world are to take part in the debates, which will conclude on September 11 with an International Symposium on Water and Sustainable Development and the signing of the Charter of Zaragoza.