A funny thing happened in 1988. A little town called Brisbane threw open its doors, put the kettle on, and said 'Hey world! Wanna come hang out at our place?... for like, 6 months?'
The official theme song for World Expo 88 was 'Together, We'll Show The World', and it is as deliciously passé as you could ever hope it to be...
I live in Brisbane now, but in 1988 I lived in a regional town, about a 5 hour drive north. I can't even imagine what it must've been like to be LIVING in Brisbane for the duration of this open-house party. I visited Expo 88 twice (we had 3 day passes for each visit) & I vividly remember the crowds of people. The never-ending sea of people. ALL of the PEOPLE! So the logistics of holding an event like this kind of blows my delicately balanced mind.
The site for Expo 88 was on Brisbane's south bank. Following Expo 88, 'Southbank' became a thing, and that thing is still very much a thing today. In the aftermath of Expo 88 the site was dismantled and Southbank was reinvigorated, with the long-term vision of it becoming an attractive corner of Brisbane for locals and tourists alike. Mission accomplished... Southbank is a great slice of Brisbane that is constantly changing & reinventing itself.
Many of the artwork pieces from Expo 88 can be found scattered throughout Brisbane. My absolute favourite of these are the metal-parts pelicans perched on steel drums that sit in the Brisbane river, down near the Kangaroo Point cliffs. I just really wish they had never ditched the monorail, as Adult Me longs to ride in a monorail while singing the monorail song from The Simpsons (Bucket List item #82)...
I was around 11 years old in 1988, so a lot of the historical and culture-specific exhibits probably went over my head for the most part. But as we moved from pavilion to pavilion it was impossible to not feel that we were part of something very special. And there was plenty of cool stuff to keep us kids occupied & entertained, so it was definitely an experience I'll never forget.
My memories of Expo 88 are a tad disjointed, as it was 28 years ago now (I had to check that on a calculator because I could NOT believe it was true!), but I'll try to make it as coherent as possible... no promises though...
The Queensland pavilion particularly stands out in my memory, perhaps as a result of patriotism for my home state, but more likely because it was just really really rad. We sat in little boats that took us through the exhibit - kind of like Willy Wonka's boat ride, except the water wasn't chocolate. Boo! The monorails passed right through the Queensland pavilion too, and everybody knows monorails are only ever allowed to pass through the most excellent of world expo pavilions. It's written in the rules.
The Switzerland pavilion had an artificial ski slope inside, and the Germans had an obligatory beer garden. Every day there were huge parades of entertainment performers that would weave their way through the crowds, and every night there was a futuristic laser light show down on the river bank. Brisbane sure did pull out all the stops to show their guests a smashing time.
I remember a 3D theater pavilion, I think it was the Fujitsu pavilion, although I could be very wrong there. Whatever its name, it was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. We sat in a huge theater and watched an elaborate 3D presentation, the subject of which I'm struggling to recall. All I know is that a.) for the '80s it must've been pretty cutting edge, and b.) it blew my 11-year-old mind apart.
We all had little official passports that were stamped at the entrance to each pavilion. It was the best little souvenir idea and I wish I still had mine now as I know it would prompt even more memories of the whole shebang.
To close, I'd like us all to take a moment to fully appreciate this amazing song that opened World Expo 88. It's 2 minutes of pure naff genius, complete with some VERY '80s graphics that will bring a tear (of joy) to your eye.
Does anyone else have any good (or bad) memories of World Expo 88? Tell all in the comments, and together, we'll
show tell the world! (See what I did there? I really am my own hero sometimes)...