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 25 years as of 1986 and as of 2012 it still stands as the latest World's Fair to be held in North America.
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.”. 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 a Skytrain, a High Speed Surface Transport from Japan, and a French “People Mover.” (basically a little boxcar). The transports of the sky was the Gondola, a boxcar hovering high in the air. The water taxis moved along four different ports on the site.
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." 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 expeditures for the expanded event totaled $802 million with a deficit of CAN$311 million.
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 categorised as a "Class II," or "specialised exhibition," reflecting its specific emphases on transportation and communications.
Canadian provinces and territories 
Countries and international organizations 
Eastern Caribbean Nations
- Not pictured: • Barbados • Côte d'Ivoire • Hungary • Kenya • South Korea • Malaysia • Spain • Yugoslavia
US states 
Corporations and Non-Governmental Organizations 
- Air Canada
- 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 Bob Rogers 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
- 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
- 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 
Concerts: Einstürzende Neubauten, Harry Belafonte, Anne Murray, Billy Ocean, Bruce Cockburn, Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis, Annie Lennox - Eurythmics, Julio Iglesias, Amy Grant, Loverboy, A-ha, Liberace, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Gowan, Parachute Club, Joan Baez with Don McLean, Kenny Loggins, Lou Rawls & The 5th Dimension, Honeymoon Suite, Kim Mitchell, Johnny Cash, Depeche Mode, Joe Jackson, George Thorogood + the Delaware Destroyers, Smokey Robinson, George Benson, John Denver, The Beach Boys, Air Supply, Peter, Paul & Mary, The Manhattan Transfer, The Temptations, René Simard, k.d. lang (opening for Rockin' Ronnie Hawkins), Peter Allen, Sheena Easton, Trooper, Bryan Adams, The Romaniacs, Tangerine Dream, Youssou N'Dour, Rolf Hamrris, Kool & The Gang, Roy Orbison, Fats Domino with Jerry Lee Lewis, Donovan Leilehua High School, Layton High School Lancer Marching Band, College Park High School Marching Band from Pleasant Hill, CA, Gustine High School Marching, Concert and Jazz Band from Gustine, CA, World Drums concert (led by John Wyre), Shannon Gunn, Skywalk, Kent-Meridian Jazz Ensemble, Images In Vogue, Peter Noone, Alvin Lee opened for Donovan. Many of the concerts were hosted by Red Robinson, Vancouver DJ. These concerts were held at the Open air Expo Theatre.
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. Other artists who had been scheduled to appear in that series included Art Bergmann.
Facts and figures 
- 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.
- Revenues: $491m
- Expenditures : $802m
- Deficit : $311m
- Economic contribution :$3,700m
(Note: All amounts are in Canadian funds and are not adjusted for inflation.)
- 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)
54 Official Participating Nations:
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.
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.
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[dated info].
“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
It put Vancouver on the map by making it into a major tourist attraction. Many of the buildings that stood in the fair stayed there, including restaurants, clubs, and the important service buildings.
State of Expo 86 attractions 
Some of the lasting contributions of Expo 86 to the city of Vancouver include:
- SkyTrain - A fully automated elevated advanced light 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 been extended four times, including two minor expansions to the original revenue line in 1990 and 1994 as well as the construction of two additional lines—the Millennium Line and Canada Line—in 2001 and 2009. SkyTrain still uses its original (though refurbished) Expo fleet of trains as part of daily revenue service. Construction of a fourth line—the Evergreen Line—to Coquitlam as well as retrofitting of the entire Expo Line are underway as of 2012.
- 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.
After the fair closed many of the attractions were auctioned off to buyers. The dispersed Expo '86 building include:
- 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 a 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.
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.
A group of former BC Pavilion employees celebrated the 20th anniversary of the close of Expo 86 at a reunion  on October 13, 2006, at the former Expo Centre (now renamed the Telus World of Science).
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.
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."
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.
In popular media 
- 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.
- Death Cab for Cutie, from nearby Bellingham, Washington, also has a song entitled "Expo '86" on their album Transatlanticism.
- 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 band Wolf Parade also released an LP entitled Expo 86 in 2010.
See also 
- World's Fair
- 1986 in Canada
- British Columbia
- 2010 Winter Olympics
- Expo 67 in Montreal
- Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto
- Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver
- 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
- CBC Archives - The food of Expo 86.
- CBC Archives Jim Pattison - a key person behind Expo 86 (from 1985) - and concerns about hosting Expo.
- Peter Stoler, Rudolph, Barbara (28 April 1986). "Westward Ho to Expo 86". Time Magazine. Retrieved 1 November 2011.
- "Transportation -- EXPO 86". Retrieved 5 November 2011.
- Archives of British Columbia: Trains, Planes and Automobiles
- Expo 86 by Kim Patrick O'Leary
- "PROMINENT VISITORS TO EXPO 86". Retrieved 11 November 2011.
- 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.
- O'Leary, Kim. "Expo 86 - The Canadian Encyclopedia". Retrieved 07 November 2011.
- Victim's father wants $100,000 from Expo, Associated Press, Spokane Chronicle - Jun 19, 1986, pg A2