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Expo 86

EXPO Vancouver 1986
The Expo 86 logo
BIE-class Specialized exposition
Category International specialized exposition
Name 1986 World Exposition on Transportation and Communication
Motto "World in Motion - World in Touch"
Building BC Place Stadium, Canada Place, Expo Centre (now Telus World of Science), SkyTrain
Area 70 hectares (170 acres)
Visitors 22,111,578
Countries 54
Country Canada
City Vancouver
Venue BC Place Stadium, Canada Place, Plaza of Nations, Expo Centre
Bidding 1979
Awarded November 1980
Opening May 2, 1986 (1986-05-02)
Closure October 13, 1986 (1986-10-13)
Specialized expositions
Previous Expo '85 in Tsukuba
Next World Expo 88 in Brisbane
Universal expositions
Previous Expo '70 in Osaka
Next Seville Expo '92 in Seville
Horticultural expositions
Previous International Garden Festival in Liverpool
Next Expo '90 in Osaka

The 1986 World Exposition on Transportation and Communication, or simply Expo '86, was a World's Fair held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada from Friday, May 2 until Monday, October 13, 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). It was also the third World's Fair to be held in the Pacific Northwest in the last 26 years as of 1986 and as of 2014 it still stands as the latest World's Fair to be held in North America.


  • History 1
    • Background 1.1
    • The Fair 1.2
  • Pavilions 2
    • Canadian provinces and territories 2.1
    • Countries and international organizations 2.2
    • US states 2.3
    • Corporations and Non-Governmental Organizations 2.4
    • Other pavilions and exhibits 2.5
    • Outdoor exhibits 2.6
    • Theatres 2.7
  • Entertainment and famous visitors 3
  • Facts and figures 4
  • Legacy 5
    • State of Expo 86 attractions 5.1
    • Reunions 5.2
    • Scandal 5.3
  • Accidents 6
  • In popular media 7
  • See also 8
  • External links 9
    • Multimedia 9.1
  • References 10


The monorail at Expo 86. After the site closed, it was shipped to England where it was installed at the Alton Towers theme park in 1987.

The logo of three interlocking rings to make the 86 in the logo stood for the three main modes of transportation; land, air, and water.


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. In 1978, Sam Bawlf (then BC Minister of Recreation and Conservation) proposed an exposition to celebrate Vancouver's Centennial year (1986). The proposal was submitted in June 1979, for a fair that was to be called "Transpo 86." In 1980, the British Columbia Legislature passed the Transpo 86 Corporation Act, paving the way for the fair. 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.

The initial idea was to have “...a modest $80 million transportation exposition that would mark Vancouver's 100th anniversary.”.[1] It soon blossomed into a full exposition thanks to the help of the Vancouver Exposition Commissioner-General at that time, Patrick Reid. The theme of Transportation and Communication led to the conglomeration of many different exhibits of transportation networks. This included a monorail that glided over the crowds that included a trip to every zone. Other ground transports included the "Skytrain", a High Speed Surface Transport from Japan, and a French “People Mover.” The transport of the sky was the Gondola, a boxcar hovering high in the air. The water taxis moved along four different ports on the site.[2]

The fair was awarded to Vancouver by the Bureau of International Expositions in November 1980. However, once it became clear that the event would be a world exposition, the name was officially changed to "Expo 86" by Ambassador and Commissioner General Patrick Reid in October 1981, and, by the end of the year, Expo 86 Corporation was established as a nonprofit agency responsible in the planning and operation of the fair. Local business tycoon Jim Pattison was appointed as CEO, and would eventually also become the president of the corporation. The chief architect selected was Bruno Freschi, the Creative Director was Ron Woodall, and Bob Smith was responsible for the production and design.

Construction started in October 1983, when Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, started a concrete mixer on the future site of the Canada Pavilion, and offered the "invitation to the world."[3] But, work was disrupted by labour disputes for 5 months. Still, Expo Centre opened May 2, 1985, as a preview centre for the fair.

The fair was originally budgeted for a modest CAN$78 million. However, final expenditures for the expanded event totaled $802 million with a deficit of CAN$311 million.[4]

The Fair

Expo '86 was opened by Charles, Prince of Wales, Diana, Princess of Wales, and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on Friday, May 2, 1986. It 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.

This World's Fair was categorized as a "Class II," or "specialized exhibition," reflecting its specific emphases on transportation and communications.


Canadian provinces and territories

Not pictured: Nova Scotia Ontario Prince Edward Island Saskatchewan

Countries and international organizations

Not pictured: Barbados Côte d'Ivoire Hungary Kenya South Korea Malaysia Spain Yugoslavia

US states

Oregon's pavilion

Corporations and Non-Governmental Organizations

  • Air Canada
  • BCTV
  • Canadian National
  • General Motors - Had one of the more popular exhibits in its pavilion: "Spirit Lodge" a live show augmented with holographic effects and other special effects. It was produced by award winning experience designer Bob Rogers (designer) and the design team BRC Imagination Arts,[5] and created with the assistance of the Kwagulth Native reserve in Alert Bay (British Columbia).
  • Via Rail Exhibit
  • Canadian Pacific - The pavilion's main feature was the film: Rainbow War.[6] As with the 'Spirit Lodge' show for the General Motors pavilion, "Rainbow War" was also produced by award winning experience designer Bob Rogers (designer) and the design team BRC Imagination Arts.[7] Following the film's run at Expo '86, 'Rainbow War' went on to receive an Oscar nomination[8] for the 'Live Action Short' category at the 58th Academy Awards. The film also went on to play again for an international audience at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul Korea, as a part of the Olympic Arts Festival.
  • Telecom Canada - Featured a Circle-Vision 360° movie: "Portraits of Canada - Images du Canada"

Other pavilions and exhibits

  • Great Hall of Ramses II (Egypt) - containing rare treasures from the life of the pharaoh
  • Great Norwegian Explorers (Norway)
  • Pavilion of Promise (Christian pavilion)
  • Roundhouse - a renovated 100-year-old railway roundhouse contained various historical locomotives.
  • Expo Centre (later Science World, now Telus World of Science)
  • Parade of Steam - a runby of various Steam Locomotives from Canada, the USA, and UK. This was part of a 2 week exhibit called "SteamExpo"

Outdoor exhibits

  • Air Plaza
  • Land Plaza
  • Marine Plaza
  • Folklife
  • Highway 86 - a sculpture/exhibit consisting of a 217m 4 lane concrete highway that contained various modes of transportation (cars, mopeds, bikes, etc.) that were frozen in time. All the real vehicles were painted a shade of light grey, and mounted in place. It was designed by 'S.I.T.E. Projects' of New York.
  • UFO H2O - a UFO inspired children's water playground.


  • Labatt's Expo Theatre
  • Kodak Pacific Bowl
  • Xerox International Theatre

Entertainment and famous visitors

Royalty: Prince Charles & Diana, Princess of Wales for the opening ceremonies; Crown Prince Harald & Crown Princess Sonja of Norway; Saudi-Arabian Prince Sultan Bin Salman al-Saud[9]

Prime Minister: Brian Mulroney (Canada) Margaret Thatcher (United Kingdom) Pierre Trudeau (former Prime Minister - Canada)[9]


  1. ^ Peter Stoler, Rudolph, Barbara (28 April 1986). "Westward Ho to Expo 86". Time Magazine. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  2. ^ "Transportation -- EXPO 86". Retrieved 5 November 2011. 
  3. ^ Archives of British Columbia: Trains, Planes and Automobiles
  4. ^ Expo 86 by Kim Patrick O'Leary
  5. ^ "Expo ‘86 Vancouver: Spirit Lodge". BRC Imagination Arts. 
  6. ^ "Rainbow War". 
  7. ^ "Expo ‘86 Vancouver: Rainbow War". BRC Imagination Arts. 
  8. ^ "Experience Required". 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h "PROMINENT VISITORS TO EXPO 86". Retrieved 11 November 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Michael Barclay, Ian A.D. Jack and Jason Schneider, Have Not Been the Same: The Can-Rock Renaissance 1985-1995. ECW Press. ISBN 978-1-55022-992-9.
  11. ^ Expo 86. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  12. ^ O'Leary, Kim. "Expo 86 - The Canadian Encyclopedia". Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  13. ^ "The Upper Clements Park". Annapolis Valley Vacation. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  14. ^ Victim's father wants $100,000 from Expo, Associated Press, Spokane Chronicle - Jun 19, 1986, pg A2


  • CBC Archives - The food of Expo 86.
  • CBC Archives Jim Pattison - a key person behind Expo 86 (from 1985) - and concerns about hosting Expo.


  • ExpoMuseum page on Expo 86
  • Canadian Encyclopedia article on Expo 86
  • Canadian Heritage site on expos
  • Hansard transcript from BC Legislature's passing of the Transpo 86 Act in 1980.
  • A 'Look Back' on EXPO 86 - over 140 web pages of images
  • False Creek Urban Heritage Trail Guidebook (from New City Institute; refers to area of Expo '86 site)
  • Expo 86 Fansite

External links

See also

  • Archie Comics put out a special edition where they came to Expo 86
  • The band Wolf Parade also released an LP entitled Expo 86 in 2010.
  • Scenes from Vancouver (some of the Expo) have appeared in a video edition of the song "If I Had Wings", composed in 1986 by children's singer/songwriter Hap Palmer.
  • The Vancouver-based indie band Said the Whale recorded a song called "False Creek Change" about the changes that Expo 86 brought to the area. The song starts: False Creek changed in '86 / The year Expo exploited her shore / It's been 22 years laying down bricks / There's no room for me here any more.

In popular media

A ride operator on the looping starship ride was hit by the ride when he crossed in front of it late in the evening at the end of his shift, Most of the bones in his body were broken. It was an on a very busy weekend in September. (a source is needed)

On May 9, 1986, 9-year-old Karen Ford of Nanaimo, BC died at the Canadian Pavilion. She was crushed while on a revolving turntable that connected two semi-circular theatres in the pavilion. The revolving table was shut down for some time after the accident, but was put back in service with a number of new safety measures.[14]

While opening the World's Fair, Diana, Princess of Wales briefly fainted onto her husband in a crowded hall in the California Pavilion. She recovered quickly in the washroom, and left half an hour later. Prince Charles later said that her fainting spell was a result of heat and exhaustion. However, the Princess confessed several years later that it was actually caused by not having kept down any food for several days a result of her eating disorder. She was chastised by her husband for not "fainting gracefully behind a door."


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


A group of former BC Pavilion employees celebrated the 20th anniversary of the close of Expo 86 at a reunion [1] on October 13, 2006, at the former Expo Centre (now renamed the Telus World of Science).

A group of former Expo '86 employees conducted a 20th anniversary reunion for Expo participants on May 2, 2006, at the Plaza of Nations site.


  • Monorail - now located at Alton Towers Theme Park in England
  • McBarge (officially Friendship 500) - a floating McDonald's now essentially abandoned in the waters of Burrard Inlet, Burnaby (locally known as "McDerelict"). It can be seen when riding the West Coast Express.
  • Space Ship McDonalds The Spaceship motif from the restaurant was dismantled and the wings were removed. The remodelled pieces were then shipped to Sechelt and reconstructed as a lighthouse to go atop the Lighthouse Pub.
  • China Gate - donated by the Chinese Government to the City of Vancouver. The landmark was relocated in 1987 to Pender Street in Vancouver's Chinatown.
  • China Gate Cafe was dismantled and moved to Sechelt BC and is now the home to the Lighthouse Pub.
  • World's largest ice hockey stick - now in Duncan, British Columbia at the local hockey rink
  • World's largest Flag Pole - now in Surrey, British Columbia at Flag Motors,
  • Scream Machine roller coaster - now Ninja at Six Flags St. Louis
  • Spirit Catcher sculpture - now installed along the waterfront of Barrie, Ontario
  • Inukshuk - once used at the Northwest Territories Pavilion, it is now used as a landmark on English Bay beach, having been relocated in 1988. It was an inspiration for the official logo for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
  • Site Furniture - all sorts of brightly painted remnants were relocated to the PNE on East Hastings Street, as well as other parks and public areas in Greater Vancouver.
  • Folklife Pavilion - most of the Folklife Pavilion buildings were dismantled into pieces, shipped by barge and reconstructed as the Folklife Village, the main shopping center on Gabriola Island, BC
  • UFO H2O - the water park is now at Mount Layton Hot Springs Resort in Terrace, British Columbia.
  • Dragonboats - the 6 teak wooden boats used to celebrate Hong Kong (pavilion) Day by holding a Dragon Boat racing festival can still be seen today on False Creek and are still raced annually.
  • Expo building modules - Numerous former pavilion structures were disassembled and reconstructed, largely for industrial use throughout the Lower Mainland, and few has survived to 2013. They can be identified by their distinctive peaked corners with exposed tubular girders. They can be found in an Industrial Parks of Delta, British Columbia.
  • Russian Pavilion - The Russian Pavilion had a special roof designed with triangles which allowed for maximum floor space coverage without any beams coming down to support it save for the outside of the building. It was dismantled and relocated now housing machinery at the Kruger Products paper plant in New Westminster British Columbia.
  • Bench Seating - iconic painted wire grid bench seating, coloured as the different zone colours of the fair, with formed concrete bases and the "86" logo branded into the sides, can be seen at various locales around the Greater Vancouver area, notably along the White Rock beach promenade.
  • Log Flume Ride - shipped across Canada on 16 large trucks and installed at Upper Clements Parks in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia.[13]
The Pub left is formerly the China Gate Restaurant. The Lighthouse right was formerly a spaceship atop a McDonalds. It is now the Lighthouse Pub in Sechelt BC
The McBarge is currently anchored derelict in Burrard Inlet next to an oil refinery

After the fair closed, many of the attractions were auctioned off to buyers. The dispersed Expo '86 building include:

  • SkyTrain - A fully automated elevated advanced rapid transit system. The first line was built intending partially to serve Expo, with construction beginning in the autumn of 1982 and revenue service opening in December 1985. SkyTrain has since become the backbone of the city's metropolitan transit system (metro) and the system has been extended five times, including three minor expansions to the original revenue line Expo Line in 1989, 1990, and 1994 as well as the construction of two additional metro lines Millennium Line and Canada Line in 2001 and 2009, respectively. Construction of a fourth metro line, the Evergreen Line, to Coquitlam as well as guideway, station, and train retrofitting of the entire Expo Line are underway as of 2012. Today, SkyTrain transports over 350,000 passengers daily. SkyTrain still uses its original 1985-86 Expo fleet of trains (Bombardier/UTDC Mark I) as part of daily revenue service as well as new, modern ones that have additional capacity and more advanced technology (Mark II, Mark III).
  • Expo Centre - Science World - An interactive educational centre with an OMNIMAX cinema. It opened May 2, 1986, as the Expo Centre. Between 1989 and 1990, after much public support, the building was expanded, and in late 1990, it opened to the general public as a science museum, "Science World". In 2005 the name was changed to Science World at Telus World of Science.
  • BC Place Stadium - All-purpose domed sports stadium (primarily for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC & BC Lions), home of the opening of Expo '86. The stadium was also home of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Opening and Closing Ceremonies. BC Place opened June 19, 1983. SkyTrain's Stadium-Chinatown Station (then, "Stadium Station") was built for this landmark in 1985, and has since served all major sporting and concert events since 1986. In May 2010, the landmark teflon roof was deflated, and is was replaced with a new retractable roof as well as over all structural upgrades and a complete interior design makeover. BC Place reopened on September 30, 2011 as the world's largest cable supported retractable roof stadium.
  • Canada Place The Canada Government pavilion is now a major downtown convention centre and cruise ship docks. It has seen major use over the years and was expanded to allow for bigger cruise ships to dock in 1999. In 2009, a companion building immediately to the northwest was completed. SkyTrain's terminus Waterfront Station served Canada Place in 1986. A special shuttle train between Waterfront and Stadium Station was used throughout the duration of the fair to get patrons between the Canada Pavilion and main Expo site along False Creek.
  • Plaza of Nations - This space has been used as an outdoor concert venue and public plaza with the surrounding buildings used as office space and nightclubs. Since Expo ended, the glass canopy that was connected to the adjacent office buildings was found unsafe and torn down, while in 2007 it was decided that the office buildings will be demolished. The B.C. Pavilion structure remains, and is now the site of the Edgewater Casino. Once the offices are demolished it will leave Canada Place, the B.C. Pavilion and the Telus World of Science as the only remaining structures from Expo directly left on the Expo site.

Some of the lasting contributions of Expo 86 to the city of Vancouver include:

The former Expo 86 monorail, Swiss built Von Roll Seilbahnen AG Mark II, is now installed at Alton Towers in the United Kingdom.

State of Expo 86 attractions

It put Vancouver on the map by making it into a major tourist attraction.

“Expo 86 will be remembered for the warm, friendly spirit that existed among the exhibitors, staff, 8000 volunteers and visitors.” according to Kim O'Leary[12]

Today, the western half of the site has and is continuing to be 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. The south eastern section of the site just underneath the former Expo Center was redeveloped for use as part the Olympic Village for the 2010 Winter Olympics. After the Olympics, it will also be redeveloped into condos and park land.

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

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 second biggest event in British Columbia history and is viewed by many as the transition of Vancouver from a sleepy provincial backwater to a city with global clout. It marked a strong boost to tourism for the province.


 Antigua and Barbuda,  Australia,  Barbados,  Belgium,  Brunei,  Canada,  China, Cook island,  Côte d'Ivoire,  Costa Rica,  Cuba,  Czechoslovakia,  Dominica,  Fiji,  France,  Germany,  Grenada,  Hungary,  Indonesia,  Italy,  Japan,  Kenya,  Malaysia,  Mexico,  Montserrat,  Nauru,  Norway,  Pakistan,  Papua New Guinea,  Peru,  Philippines,  Romania,  Saint Kitts and Nevis,  Saint Lucia,  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,  Saudi Arabia,  Senegal,  Singapore, Solomon Islands,  South Korea,  Spain,  Sri Lanka,   Switzerland,  Thailand,  Tonga,  United Kingdom,  United States,  U.S.S.R.  Vanuatu, Western Samoa, and  Yugoslavia.

54 Official Participating Nations:

  • Main Expo Site Size: 670,000 m3, (165 acres).
  • Canadian Pavilion Size: 24,000 m3 (6 acres), 4.5 km away from the main site connected by Vancouver's SkyTrain.
  • Total Expo Site Size: 700,000 m2 (173 acres)

(Note: All amounts are in Canadian funds and are not adjusted for inflation.)

  • Revenues: $491m
  • Expenditures : $802m
  • Deficit : $311m
  • Economic contribution :$3,700m[11]
  • Official Theme: "Transportation and Communication"
  • Sub Theme: "A Celebration of Ingenuity"
  • Total Attendance Number: 22,111,578
  • Operating Dates: May 2, 1986, to October 13, 1986
  • Chief Architect: Bruno Freschi
  • Official Mascot: Expo Ernie - A lifesized robot.
Expo 86 Stamp Issued by the Soviet Union

Facts and figures

Oceanographer: Jacques Cousteau[9]

Directors: Rambo: First Blood Part II)[9]

Dance: Mikhail Baryshnikov, The Royal Ballet,[9] Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Company

Comedians: Danny Kaye[9]

The "Festival of Independent Recording Artists", a concert series promoting local bands, was cancelled on the first night after a performance by Slow devolved into a riot.[10] Other artists who had been scheduled to appear in that series included Art Bergmann.[10]

Concerts: John Denver, Red Robinson, Vancouver DJ. These concerts were held at the Open air Expo Theatre.


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