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The Audacity Of Pole Dancing - Obama Club vs USA Pavilion At Shanghai Expo

They both opened their doors on May 1, but culturally, they are worlds apart. While the Obama Club cost local Chinese club owners  $US15 million, the USA Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010 received no governmental funding and was only completed as a result of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seeking private financing to the tune of $US61 million. While the Pavilion will tell the story of the American spirt of perseverance and technological innovation, the Obama Club is oddly a 'capitalistic' venture to capitalize on the name of the 44th President of the United States.

With an affinity for Western culture, Shanghai differs from all the preconceived impressions many Americans have about Communist China. Except for the Chinese signage on billboards and buildings, what you will see in this metropolitan city could be found anywhere in the West. 

As much as the Chinese authorities would like to change its "Shanghai" image by hosting this year's World Expo, Shanghai with its gilded youth and glitzy bars is rapidly reviving  the thing for which it was once truly famous - it's nightlife -- according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Shanghai's night scene now ranges from the world's highest bar - a dizzying 91 stories above the city - to the recent opening of a bar called the Obama Club. Designed by Las Vegas-based club and resort designers Cagley and Tanner, who are behind the Bellagio's Salon Prive, The Obama Club is a massive 64,580 square feet, Studio 54-like dancehall venue.

When Urbanatomy interviewed club owner Dragon Chiang and asked him as to why he named the club what he did, they were hoping for a connection that would tie the nightspot to some kind of "über Obama" rationale.

Instead what they got was anything but presidential...

"My partner and I were discussing and we wanted three things: A name that's easy to remember; easy to pronounce; and something people would discuss," Chiang said. "When we were talking there was a radio in the background talking about Obama this, Obama that and I said, 'Why not Obama?'"

While some call it garish, other describe the Obama Club as 'part Las Vegas - part Cirque de Soleil. The club reportedly attracts all walks of life -- middle aged men carrying murses (man purses), break-dancers, and of course -- lots of pole-dancing.


As you might expect, the weight of the Obama name turns out to be quite a draw. Shanghaiist reports that at the soft launch on April 26, the beautiful people. paparazzi and the gawkers arrived in droves.  But let's just say that the activity caught on video would hardly be something you would ever catch at a 1600 Pennsylvania Ave soiree.

As for the USA Pavilion over at the Expo, the activity is quite a bit more subdued. For anyoneHilary ClintonHilary Clinton that remembers the 1964 World's Fair in NYC knows that a world expo is a glimpse into the future. Global visitors will witness the technological advancements of nearly 230 nations. In this respect, I don't think the Shanghai World Expo 2010 will disappoint the expected 70 million visitors during its six month run from May 1 - October 31.


In this YouTube video clip, Secretary of State celebrated the opening of the USA Pavilion at an event that took place at the US Department of State in Washington, DC, April 20, 2010.



According to mission statement on the Web site, "The USA Pavilion presents America as a place of opportunity and diversity where people come together to inspire and create change. Its theme encompasses many core values central to the American spirit - Sustainability - Teamwork - Health - Technology- and Innovation. While not the most elaborate venue at the fair, the USA Pavilion will give the American people a public presence at the Expo, while hopefully raising the profile of American corporations and organizations in the Chinese market."

World's Fairs are all about forging bonds between nations. The Shanghai event will hopefully be the catalyst to cement a tighter and more mutually-beneficial relationship between the US and China regarding vital global issues such as cyber wars, security, trade and climate change.

But on the topic of pole-dancing, I think we're going to have to leave this to Dragon Chiang and his business partners to determine how much they can milk the "Obama" name over the course of the next six months.  And perhaps by that time, their Web site will be functional.

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Ron Callari
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