No doubt about it, Panama City loves a good party. And the historic opening of the $5.4 billion expansion of the Panama Canal provided a great excuse to throw a celebration of international standards.
Thousands of people lined the Canal on June 26 as the first ship passed through the expansion, the Chinese vessel dubbed COSCO Shipping Panama. An estimated 25,000 people gathered for the official inauguration ceremonies. There was flag-waving, musicians, dancing, fireworks and, of course, a wide range of political speeches.
President Juan Carlos Varela called the expansion “the route that unites the world,” and he was joined by a wide range of international leaders, including Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. The President gave the owner of COSCO a commemorative gold coin and a plaque was unveiled honoring the workers who constructed the Canal.
TV networks from around the world were covering the events live, putting Panama’s booming economy on the international stage. “Panama Unlocks Future of Global Shipping,” read one headline.
Everybody engaged by the event witnessed an outpouring of national pride. When the Canal was first built 103 years ago it was hailed as a wonder of the world and now the current generation has its own contribution. “Panama is your channel and the channel is Panama,” a La Prensa article proclaimed.
The party didn’t stop when the officials left the stage. Events were held around the city, with live concerts on the Cinta Costera and viewing events around the Amador Causeway. It was a day of celebration, as Panama entered a new era.
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