HONG KONG, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Hong Kong Disneyland opened Monday with a gala ceremony featuring a lion dance, Chinese drums and cymbals alongside Disney characters and songs.
In speeches at the park's official opening, Disney executives Michael Eisner and Bob Iger shared the stage with Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang and Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong, who made a trip from Beijing to give the park the central government's blessing.
Tsang described Disneyland as a "strategic investment" to promote tourism in Hong Kong. He said it aimed to become the premier family destination in Asia.
The $3 billion theme park is a joint venture between Disney and the Hong Kong government. It is expected to draw more than 5 million tourists in the first year, and double that number by 2020, with the majority of visitors coming from mainland China.
Controversies over the park have included its price tag -- Hong Kong taxpayers paid for land reclamation, construction and infrastructure, including a new train link -- fears of noise and smoke from nightly fireworks displays, and doubts that the small park, about one-third the size of Disneyland in California, can handle the planned 30,000 visitors per day.