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Looking back at Expo '67 and '86

By Karli Vezina

On this Canada Day, we're looking back on a couple of events that Stakers will remember.

In 2002 CBC reporter Raj Ahluwalia called Expo 67 the best fair ever, saying, “its success changed the world's view of Canada, and more importantly, it changed the way Canadians viewed them

selves. For the first time the country basked in the pride and the glory of its talents and accomplishments. A nation had come of age."

Expo 67 in Montreal was a representation of the futurism and optimism of the times. 62 countries participated in the six month event including over 70 private exhibitors. Participating countries were allowed to send their top performing artists as well, bringing groups like La Scala Opera Company from Milan to international audiences.

The event’s theme was “Man and His World” highlighting the world’s progress in industry, science, and culture. The grounds featured state of the art transportation like the monorail, and cutting edge architecture and technology throughout.

All countries that participated in Expo 67 built their own pavilion or joined forces with other nations to form regional ones. Some of the greatest architects of their time were there, designing breathtaking structures to make their nations proud.

The Canadian pavilion was no slouch either! The centrepiece was a giant, inverted pyramid called “Katimavik,” and Inuit word meaning “meeting place.” The pyramid spanned 11 acres and once inside, a 360 degree movie screen was there, ready to blow minds.

Montreal built 250 hectares of artificial islands for the Expo, that required 28 tonnes of fill and over 10 months to construct but the payoff was worth it. The total cost to build and run Expo '67 was $283 million. Independent studies show that the return to taxpayers was almost double. In 1967 alone, tourism revenue directly related to the Expo was calculated at $480 million.

Almost 20 years later, Canada did it again. This time, in Vancouver. Expo 86 wasn’t as groundbreaking but still hugely successful with over 20 million people visiting in the five and a half month span. The Vancouver event took place in two main sites and spanned over 70 hectares.

Although Expo 67 had more attendance (50 million), Vancouver’s event went down in history for being the largest event ever held and had a theme of “World in Motion” focusing on transportation and communication innovations. Expo 86 also got huge media coverage when Princess Diana and Prince Charles attend the opening days.

Expo 86 featured a Canadian pavilion that covered 3.5 city blocks and cost $145 million to build. The result was a majestic white building made to look like a ship complete with 5 sails of hanging fabric. That famous structure stills stands today at Vancouver’s waterfront and is called “Canada Place,” however the sails were restored in 2010.


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