When my parents announced their plans to visit Expo 86 in Vancouver BC, I was intrigued. Being a child of the Pacific Northwest, I grew up knowing about the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and the Space Needle that was its legacy. I became curious about what the Vancouver fair would have to offer.
What I hadn’t realized up until then was that Expos had been taking place on a regular basis in different parts of the world since the first one in London in 1855. Called The Great Exhibition, it attracted 25 countries to participate under the theme “Industry of All Nations.” (By contrast, the upcoming Expo 2020 in Dubai will host 192 countries.)
Deciding I shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to attend such an event, I joined my parents and other adult siblings on the trip. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The theme of Expo 86 was Transportation and Communication. In keeping with that theme, the first thing I encountered was the brand new driverless and fully automated SkyTrain. Gliding along the rails and seeing all the pavilions and plazas below was an amazing experience. Built as a showcase for the Expo, SkyTrain remains a major part of the metro Vancouver transportation system to this day.
And oh, those pavilions! They were huge and impressive and seemed to go on forever! The Swiss pavilion was fronted by an enormous Swatch watch (very popular in the 1980s). The Egyptian pavilion hosted an extensive collection from the tomb of Ramses II. Staff at the Canadian National Pavilion demonstrated a new and unique form of transportation – rollerblades! BCTV set up a fully functional broadcast studio on site to cover the event and to demonstrate to the public how a television station operated. The General Motors pavilion featured a live show with holographic images. For the first time, The United States, China, and the Soviet Union were all present.
We were awed by multiscreen displays and desktop computers. We bought silver jewelry at the India pavilion. We communicated with the robot mascot Expo Ernie. We watched an impressive fireworks display. There was live music and dance performances. There were amusement park rides. Food ranged from international fare to the infamous McBarge, a floating Mcdonald’s anchored offshore.
In short, Expo 86 was truly incredible, and I know Expo 2020 will be even better.
In future articles I will spotlight other Expos and their lasting contributions to their host cities and to the world at large.
Joan Thompson, Expo Sales Executive
Ya’lla Tours USA