Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 28, 2011

Expo 67

April 28, 1967: Expo 67 opens in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It was considered to be the most successful World’s Fair of the century. There were 50 million visitors (including your author) and 62 nations participated in the event. There was a record crowd on the third day of the Expo with 569,000 visitors on that day alone. The year coincided with Canada’s centennial year. It was originally to have been held in Moscow, Russia to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, but the Soviet Union backed out and the fair was offered to Canada in 1962. After the fair closed in October 1967, the site and many of the pavilions remained open as exhibits called Man and His World.

The exhibition did not get a smooth start. In 1963, a computer program had predicted the project was doomed and there was not enough time to get ready so many of the top organizers resigned. Or else it was due to a new government coming into power and switching appointees. It was in May 1963 that a theme for the fair was selected. They chose “Man and His World” based on a book written in 1939 by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

There were seventeen theme elements for Man the His World including: Du Pont Auditoriaum of Canada, Habitat 67, Labyrinth, Man and his Health, Man in the Community, Man the Explorer with four sub-themes, Man the Creator with three sub-themes, Man the Producer with three sub-themes, and Man the Provider. Construction began on August 13, 1963 when the first front loader of fill dirt was dumped. Twenty-five million tons of fill dirt followed. There were only 1,042 days to complete the building of Expo 67. On opening day, everything was ready.

One of the notable features of Expo 67 was the World Festival of Art and Entertainment which featured art galleries, operas, ballets and theater companies, orchestras jazz groups, and pop musicians. There was an amusement park that remained open nightly until 2:30 AM even though the park itself closed at 10 PM. Many notable people arrived including Queen Elizabeth II, Lyndon Johnson, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Charles de Gaulle. Many countries participated in the event but notably Spain was absent, South Africa was banned due to apartheid, and China did not participate. Many countries in South America also did not take part. The revenues were $221,239,872 and the cost of the Expo was $431,904,683 for a deficit of over $210 million. But I had fun.

“The cannonade of fireworks which marked the opening of Expo…may in retrospect turn out to have been one of those rare moments that changed the direction of a nation’s history…This is the greatest thing we have ever done as a nation and surely the modernization of Canada — of its skylines, of its styles, its institutions — will be dated from this occasion and from this fair…The more you see of it, the more you’re overwhelmed by a feeling that if this is possible, that if this little sub-arctic, self-obsessed country of 20,000,000 people can put on this kind of show, then it can do almost anything.” – Peter C. Newman

“Still, Expo is regarded as the best world’s fair ever. Its success changed the world’s view of Canada, and more importantly, it changed the way Canadians viewed themselves. For the first time the country basked in the pride and the glory of its talents and accomplishments. A nation had come of age.” – Raj Ahluwalia

“When the lights go out for the last time, when the crowds have left the pavilions and the avenues, a World Exhibition begins a new life. Less glittering but more profound, this new life is nourished in the souls of those who visited the Exhibition, and it will blossom into a legend for generations to come.” – Pierre Dupuy

“The official name was “The 1967 Universal and International Exhibition in Montréal / L’Exposition universelle et internationale de 1967 à Montreal”. A bit of a mouthful. It needed a more convenient name.” – Yves Jasmin

Also on this day:
A Voyage to the South Sea – In 1789 the Mutiny on the Bounty takes place.
Kon-Tiki – In 1947, Thor Heyerdahl set sail.

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