A world's fair, world fair, world exposition, or universal exposition (sometimes expo or Expo for short) is a large international exhibition designed to showcase achievements of nations. These exhibitions vary in character and are held in different parts of the world. The next world Expo is Expo 2017 and is to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Since the 1928 Convention Relating to International Exhibitions came into force, the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE; English: International Exhibitions Bureau) has served as an international sanctioning body for world's fairs. BIE-approved fairs are of three types: universal, specialized and horticultural. They usually last from three weeks to six months.
The best-known 'first World Expo' was held in The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, United Kingdom, in 1851, under the title "Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations". The Great Exhibition, as it is often called, was an idea of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, and is usually considered to be the first international exhibition of manufactured products. It influenced the development of several aspects of society, including art-and-design education, international trade and relations, and tourism. These events have resulted in a remarkable form of Prince Albert's life history, one that continues to be reflected in London architecture in a number of ways, including in the Albert Memorial later erected to the Prince. This expo was the most obvious precedent for the many international exhibitions, later called world's fairs, that have continued to be held to the present time.
Since their inception in 1851, the character of world expositions has evolved. Three eras can be distinguished: the era of industrialization, the era of cultural exchange, and the era of nation branding.
The 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal was promoted under the name Expo 67. Event organizers retired the term world's fair in favor of expo. (The Montreal Expos, a former Major League Baseball team, was named for the 1967 fair.)
Nation branding (1988–present)
From Expo '88 in Brisbane onwards, countries started to use world expositions more widely and more strongly as a platform to improve their national images through their pavilions. Finland, Japan, Canada, France and Spain are cases in point. A large study by Tjaco Walvis called "Expo 2000 Hanover in Numbers" showed that improving national image was the primary participation goal for 73% of the countries at Expo 2000. In a world where a strong national image is a key asset, pavilions became advertising campaigns, and the Expo a vehicle for 'nation branding'. Apart from cultural and symbolic reasons, organizing countries (and the cities and regions hosting them) also utilize the world exposition to brand themselves. According to branding expert Wally Olins, Spain used Expo '92 and the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona in the same year to underline its new position as a modern and democratic country and present itself as a prominent member of the European Union and the global community.
At Expo 2000 Hanover, where countries created their own architecture, the average pavilion investment was about €12 million. Given these costs, governments are sometimes hesitant to participate, because benefits are often assumed not to outweigh the costs. Tangible effects are difficult to measure, but an independent study for the Dutch pavilion at Expo 2000 estimated that the pavilion (which cost around €35 million) generated around €350 million of potential revenues for the Dutch economy. It also identified several key success factors for world-exposition pavilions in general.
St. Louis 1904 World's Fair Boer War program. Battle recreations took 2–3 hours and included several Generals and 600 veteran soldiers from both sides of the war. At the conclusion of the show, the Boer General Christiaan de Wet would escape on horseback by leaping from a height of 35 feet (11 m) into a pool of water.
Presently, there are two types of world expositions: registered and recognized (sometimes unofficially known as "major" and "minor" fairs, respectively). Registered exhibitions are the biggest category events. Previously, registered expositions were called "Universal Expositions". Even though this name lingers on in public memory, it is no longer in use as an official term. At registered exhibitions, participants generally build their own pavilions. They are therefore the most extravagant and most expensive expos. Their duration may be between six weeks and six months. Since 1995, the interval between two registered expositions has been at least five years. The latest registered exposition Expo 2015 was held in Milan, Italy, from May 1 to October 31, 2015.
Recognized expositions are smaller in scope and investments and generally shorter in duration; between three weeks and three months. Previously, these expositions were called "International or Specialized Expositions" but these terms are no longer used officially. Their total surface area must not exceed 25 ha and organizers must build pavilions for the participating states, free of rent, charges, taxes and expenses. The largest country pavilions may not exceed 1,000 m2. Only one recognized exhibition can be held between two registered exhibitions.
Registered expositions encompass universal themes that affect the full gamut of human experience, and international and corporate participants are required to adhere to the theme in their representations. Registered expositions are held every 5 years because they are more expensive as they require total design of pavilion buildings from the ground up. As a result, nations compete for the most outstanding or memorable structure—recent examples include Japan, France, Morocco & Spain at Expo '92. Recent Registered Expositions include BrusselsExpo '58, MontrealExpo 67, OsakaExpo '70, and SevilleExpo '92. Sometimes prefabricated structures are also used to minimize costs for developing countries or for countries from a geographical block to share space (i.e. Plaza of the Americas at Seville '92).
The only Registered (Universal) exposition to be held without BIE approval was the 1964–1965 New York World's Fair. The sanctioning organization at Paris denied them "official" status because its president, Robert Moses, did not comply with BIE rules in place at the time, namely the one limiting the duration for universal expositions to six months only. Both World's Fairs in New York (1939–40 and 1964–65) have the distinction of being the only two-year world expositions in history. The Fair proceeded without BIE approval and turned to tourism and trade organizations to host national pavilions in lieu of official government sponsorship. However, a large number of countries did participate in the world's fair including several newly independent African and Asian states.
Frederick Pittera, a producer of international fairs and exhibitions and author of the history of world's fairs in the Encyclopædia Britannica and Compton Encyclopedia, was commissioned by Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr. of New York City in 1959 to prepare the first feasibility studies for the 1964 New York World's Fair. Pittera was joined in his study by Austrian architect Victor Gruen (Inventor of the 'Shopping Mall').The Eisenhower Commission ultimately awarded the world's fair bid to New York City against several major U.S. cities.
Since the turn of the 21st century the BIE has moved to sanction expos only every five years; following the numerous expos of the 1980s and 1990s, some see this as a means to cut down potential expenditure by participating nations. The move was also seen by some as an attempt to avoid conflicting with the Summer Olympics. The rule may apply to all expos, or it may end up that universal expositions will be restricted to every five years or so, with international or specialized expositions in the in-between years for countries wishing to celebrate a special event. The most recent universal expo is Expo 2015 in Milan.
International expositions are usually united by a common theme—such as 'Transportation' (VancouverExpo 86), or, 'Leisure in the Age of Technology' (Brisbane, Expo '88). Such themes are narrower than the wider scope of universal expositions.
The International Exposition, Tsukuba, Japan, popularly known as Expo '85 was held in the city of Tsukuba located near Tokyo. This Exposition is more formally known as "The International Science Technology Exposition".
Specialized and international expositions are usually smaller in scale and cheaper to run for the host committee and participants because the architectural fees are lower and they only have to rent the space from the host committee, usually with the prefabricated structure already completed. Countries then have the option of 'adding' their own colours, design etc. to the outside of the prefabricated structure and filling in the inside with their own content. One example of this is China, which has often chosen to add a Chinese archway in the front of its prefabricated pavilions to symbolize the nation (Expo '88, Expo '92, Expo '93).
The 2008 International Exhibition was hosted by the Spanish city of Zaragoza with the theme "Water and the Sustainable Development".
List of official world expositions (Universal, International/Specialised, Horticultural) according to the Bureau International des Expositions and ExpoMuseum: Upcoming world expositions are in italics.
The iconic Space Needle and Monorail depicted on this 1962 stamp are survivors.
The majority of the structures are temporary and are dismantled after the fair closes. Landmark towers from several fairs are notable exceptions. By far the most famous of these is the Eiffel Tower, built for the Exposition Universelle (1889). Although it is now the most recognized symbol of its host city Paris, a number of influential contemporary critics opposed its construction, and there were demands for it to be dismantled after the fair's conclusion.
Other major structures that were held over from these fairs:
1851: The Crystal Palace, from the first World's Fair in London, designed so that it could be recycled to recoup losses, was such a success that it was moved and intended to be permanent, only to be destroyed by a fire in 1936.
1893: The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is housed in the former Palace of Fine Arts, one of the last remaining buildings of the World's Columbian Exposition. In conjunction with the fair, the Art Institute of Chicago building was built to house conferences, as the World's Congress Auxiliary Building. The intent or hope was to make all Columbian structures permanent, but most of the structures burned, possibly the result of arson during the Pullman Strike. The foundation of the world's first Ferris wheel, which operated at the Exposition, was unearthed on the Chicago Midway during a construction project by the University of Chicago, whose campus now surrounds the Midway. Relocated survivors include the Norway pavilion, a small house now at a museum in Wisconsin, and the Maine State Building, now at the Poland Springs Resort in Maine.
1906: The Civic Aquarium of Milan built for the Milan Exposition is still open after 100 years and was recently renovated. The International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) was settled in Milan during the fair and had its first congress in the Expo pavilions. In June 2006 the ICOH celebrated the first century of its life in Milan. An elevated railway with trains running at short intervals linked the fair to the city center. It was dismantled in the 1920s.
1909: The landscaping (by the Olmsted brothers) from the Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition (AYPE) in Seattle still forms much of the University of Washington campus. The only major building left from the AYPE, Architecture Hall, is used by the university's architecture school.
1942: A special case is the EUR quarter in Rome, built for a World's Fair planned for 1942 but cancelled because of World War II. Today it hosts various offices, both governmental and private, and several museums.
1958: In Brussels, the Atomium still stands at the exposition site. It is a 165-billion-times-enlarged iron-crystal-shaped building. Until June 2012, the "American Theatre" on the Expo grounds was frequently used as a television studio by the VRT.
Seattle – World's Fair sign at 47th and Aurora, 1962
1988: The Skyneedle, the symbol tower of Expo '88 in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, still stands. Other survivors are the Nepal Peace Pagoda of the Nepalese representation, now at the transformed World Expo '88 site South Bank Parklands, and the Japan Pond and Garden from the Japanese representation, now at the Brisbane Mount Cooth-tha Botanic Gardens.
1992: The pavilions of Expo '92 in Seville had been converted into a technological square and a theme park.
1998: The main buildings of Expo '98 in Lisbon were completely integrated into the city itself and many of the art exhibition pieces still remain.
2005: The home of Satsuki & Mei Kusakabe, built for the 2005 Expo in Aichi, remains operating at its original site in Morikoro Park and is a popular tourist attraction.
The Bahrain Pavilion from Expo 2015 is relocated to Bahrain.The Azerbaijan Pavilion is in the country's capital Baku.The Chinese Pavilion was brought back to Qingdao and is on the site of the 2014 horticultural exhibition.
The Save the Children Italy pavilion from Expo 2015 was dismantled and re-built as school for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.
The Brussels Expo '58 relocated many pavilions within Belgium: the pavilion of Jacques Chocolats moved to the town of Diest to house the new town swimming pool. Another pavilion was relocated to Willebroek and has been used as dance hall Carré ever since. One smaller pavilion still stands on the boulevard towards the Atomium: the restaurant "Salon 58" in the pavilion of Comptoir Tuilier.
Disney had contributed so many exhibits to the New York fair in part because the corporation had originally envisioned a "permanent World's Fair" at the Flushing site. That concept instead came to fruition with the Disney theme park Epcot, an extension of the Walt Disney World Resort, near Orlando, Florida. Epcot has many of the characteristics of a typical universal exposition: national pavilions, as well as exhibits concerning technology and/or the future, along with more typical amusement park rides. Meanwhile, several of the 1964 attractions, relocated to Disneyland, have been duplicated at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Occasionally other bits and pieces of the fairs remain. In the New York Citysubway system, signs directing people to Flushing Meadows, Queens remain from the 1964–65 event. In the Montreal subway at least one tile artwork of its theme, "Man and His World", remains. Also, a seemingly endless supply of souvenir items from fair visits can be found, and in the United States, at least, can often be bought at garage or estate sales. Many of these events also produced postage stamps and commemorative coins. The 1904 Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the III Olympiad, were held in conjunction with the 1904 St. Louis fair, although no particular tie-in seems to have been made. (The 1900 Paris Exposition was also loosely tied to the Olympic Games.)
Several Canadian cities had been interested in 2017 as it is the year of Canada's 150th anniversary, or sesquicentennial. In 2007, a Vancouver, British Columbia based group (Expo 17 Inc) publicly unveiled a 51-page proposal to stage a sustainable "hybrid" expo in Montreal, consisting of an expo approved and recognized by the BIE, a horticultural expo, and a housing expo. Following a recent decision by Canadian Heritage which allows only the city of Edmonton, Alberta to bid for an expo, however, the group is now pursuing alternative events to mark Canada's sesquicentennial. Meanwhile, Edmonton had been actively developing a bid for Edmonton EXPO 2017 since 2008, but failed to receive Federal funding in support of it. In May 2009, Calgary announced to Canadian Heritage it would begin to develop a bid for 2017 as well, but withdrew in November 2009. Ottawa, Canada's capital city, had also considered bidding for 2017. As of November 2009, Edmonton was the only Canadian bidder.
Thessaloniki unsuccessfully bid for the 2008 World EXPO, this time won by Zaragoza in Spain; another planned bid for 2017 was announced in September 2006 and was in full development but they did not make a bid.
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia has been quoted by media reports as another potential candidate for the Australian 2020 bid.
2022 or 2023 bids
Countries wishing to organise the Specialised Expo in either 2022 or 2023 had until 6pm (Paris time) on 15 December 2016 to submit their own bids, after which the list will be closed. Four countries have submitted bids to host Specialised Expo 2022/23:
Central Polish city of Łódź announced its candidature to host EXPO 2022. It has been promoted in the Polish Pavilion at the EXPO 2015 in Milan. Consequently, Polish Government officially notified the candidature to the International Bureau of Expositions on 15 June 2016.
Due to the U.S. government's withdrawing its membership in the BIE in 2002, Worlds Fair USA is the first private Worlds Fair effort in history. Worlds Fair USA is organizing a series of mini-Worlds Fairs around the country called Worlds Fair Nano  in order to build excitement for the six month Worlds Fair, which Worlds Fair USA hopes to organize within the decade.
The Los Angeles World's Fair is another non-BIE effort.