SHANGHAI - CHINA'S biggest tourism event ever, the Shanghai World Expo, wraps up Sunday after introducing a record 72 million visitors to a smorgasbord of cultures and technologies meant to illustrate its theme of urban sustainability.

The massive, six-month event aimed at showcasing China's rise as a modern industrial power drew mainly local visitors, many of them ordinary folk from the provinces who flooded into the city by the tour busload-full, cramming the city's hotels, subways and other public places.

Most patiently braved waits of up to 10 hours at some popular national pavilions, sweltering summer temperatures, long walks and other inconveniences for what could be once-in-a-lifetime direct contact with foreign places and people.

Highlights included Denmark's famed 'Little Mermaid' sculpture, a rooftop cable car ride above a replica alpine meadow at the Swiss pavilion, famous impressionist paintings from the Louvre at the French pavilion, and entertainment by Cirque du Soleil courtesy of Canada.

'Thanks to the expo, people like me who never would have a chance to go abroad can experience the whole world,' said Zou Aiguo, a retiree from central China's Jiangxi province whose son gave him an expo tour as a present. 'It's my first time to Shanghai, the most prosperous city in China, and I'm very excited,' he said.

Not everyone was pleased by the event, least of all some of those unhappy with being forced out of old housing to make way for the expo zone, but such criticism gains little traction in a country that vigorously suppresses public dissent.