Expo 86

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Expo 86 logo

The 1986 World Exposition on Transportation and Communication, or simply Expo '86, was a class II World's Fair held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada during the summer of 1986. The fair, the theme of which was "Transportation and Communication: World in Motion - World in Touch", coincided with Vancouver's centennial and was held on the north shore of False Creek. It was the second time that Canada held a World's Fair, the first being Expo '67 in Montreal (during the Canadian Centennial).

Up until the late 1970s, the 173 acre (0.7 km²) site on False Creek where Expo was staged was a former CPR rail yard and an industrial wasteland. However, in 1980, the British Columbia Legislature passed the Transpo 86 Corporation Act, paving the way for the fair. Expo 86 was originally called Transpo 86, until it became clear that the event would be a world exposition. The transportation theme reflected the city's role in connecting Canada by rail, its status as a major port and transportation hub, and the role of transportation in communications. Communication and transportation have long been linked in Canadian studies, reaching back to early fur trade and railroad communication works by Harold Innis.



Expo '86 opened on May 2, 1986 and featured pavilions from 54 nations and numerous corporations. Expo's participants were given the opportunity to design their own pavilion or opt for the less expensive Expo module. Each module was approximately two-and-a-half stories high and had the floor space equal to a third of a city block. The design was such that any number of the square modules could be placed together in a variety of shapes. The roof design allowed the interior exhibit space to be uninterrupted by pillars.

Facts and figures

Official theme: "Transportation and Communication"
Sub theme: "A Celebration of Ingenuity."
Total attendence Number: 22 111 578
Operating dates: May 2 1986 to October 13 1986
Chief architect: Bruno Freschi
Official mascot: Expo Ernie - a lifesized robot.

Revenues: $ 491 000 000
Expenditures : $ 802 000 000
Deficit : $311 000 000
(Note: all amounts are in Canadian funds and are not adjusted for inflation)

Main Expo site size: 670,000 m³, (165 acres).
Canadian Pavillion size: 24,000 m³ (6 acres), 4.5 km away from the main site connected by the Vancouver SkyTrain.
Total Expo site size: 700,000 m² (173 acres)

54 Official participating nations (2/3rds of the World's population represented): Antigua et Barbuda, Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, China, Cook island, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Dominica, Fiji, France, Germany, Grenada, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Monserrat, Nauru, Norway, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Rumania, St. Kitts/Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, Tonga, United Kingdom, U.S.A., USSR, Vanuatu, Western Samoa, Yugoslavia.


Canadian Provincial and Territorial pavillions: Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Yukon and Northweast Territory

Country pavillions: Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Britain, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Eastern Caribbean, European Community, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory coast, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, South Pacific, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, U.S.S.R., United States of America, and Yugoslavia

Other pavillions and exhibits: Great Hall of Ramses II (Egypt), Great Norwegian Explorers (Norway), Pavilion of Promise, Roundhouse, Expo Centre

US States: California, Oregon, and Washington

Outdoor exhibits: Air Plaza, Land Plaza, Marine Plaza, Highway 86, UFO H2O, Folklife

Theatres: Labbat's Expo Theatre, Kodak Pacific Bowl, Xerox International Theatre

Corporate/NGO Pavilions: Air Canada, BCTV (Television Network), Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, General Motors, Via Rail Exhibit, United Nations

Entertainment and famous visitors

Royalty: Prince Charles, Princess Diana

Prime Minister: Brian Mulroney (Canada)

List of entertainers to perform at Expo:

Concerts: Harry Belafonte, Anne Murray, Billy Ocean, Bruce Cockburn, The Eurythmics, Julio Inglesias, Amy Grant, Loverboy, A-HA, Liberace, The Mormon Taberackle Choir, Gowan, Parachute Club, Joan Baez with Don Mclean, Kenny Loggins, Lou Rawls & the 5th Dimension, Honneymoon Suite, Kim Mitchell, Jonny Cash, Depeche Mode, Joe Jackson, George Thorogood, Smokey Robinson, George Bensen, John Denver, The Manhattan Transfer, The Beach Boys, Air Supply, Peter Paul & Mary, The Temptations, Rene Simard, K.D. Lang, Peter Allen, Sheena Easton.

Comedians: Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Joan Rivers, and George Burns

Dance : Mikhail Baryshinikov


In all, 22 million people attended the expo and, despite a deficit of $311 million CAD, it was considered a tremendous success. It remains to date the biggest event in BC history and is viewed by many as the transition of Vancouver from a sleepy provincial backwater to a city with some global clout. It marked a strong boost to tourism for BC.

Many have also seen the fair as being at least partially responsible for the re-election of Social Credit for the final term.

Today, the western two-thirds of the site have been developed into parks and high rise condominiums; the eastern portion was used for the annual Molson Indy race, until it was cancelled in late 2004. Future plans call for the eastern third of the site to be developed into parkland and condominiums. The western third of the site is presently owned by the real estate investment firm Concord Pacific, which has its primary shareholder the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing. The redevelopment took longer than expected, but is one of the most successful urban developments in Canadian history.

Other lasting contributions of Expo '86 are the Science World education center and the SkyTrain elevated rapid transit system, as well as Canada Place and the Plaza of Nations.


The Monorail - Is now located at Alton Towers Theme Park in England.
Floating McDonald's - Is now abandoned and rusting away in the waters of Burrard Inlet, Burnaby.
China Gate - Was donated by the Chinese Government to the City of Vancouver and is now located on Pender Street in Vancouver's Chinatown.


In 1988, the site was sold to the Pan Pacific development corporation for a fraction of the original cost, a move that proved to be extremely controversial. Premier William Vander Zalm and his friend, the late Peter Toigo were accused of influence peddling in the sale.

See also

External links


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