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World Expo '88 Sunsails Logo
World Expo '88 Globe Logo

World Expo 88, also known as Expo '88, was a World's Fair held in Brisbane, the state capital of Queensland, Australia, during a six-month period between 30 April 1988 and 30 October 1988. The theme of the Expo was "Leisure in the Age of Technology", and the mascot for the Expo was an Australian platypus named Expo Oz.[1]

The AU$625 million fair was the largest event of the 1988 Bicentennial celebrations of the European settlement of Australia.[2]





The origins for a world expo for Brisbane commenced soon after James Maccormick, architect for the Australia Pavilion at Expo '67, Expo '70 and Expo '74, was commissioned to do an urban renewal study for Kangaroo Point in the early 70s. It occurred to Maccormick that an expo would be an ideal catalyst for such a redevelopment, and he later hosted meetings with prominent Queensland business persons and government representatives to such purpose.[3] With the Australian Bicentenary looming in 1988, other Australian capitals sought means by which to celebrate the event, including hosting of a Universal Exposition and/or Olympic Games. Sydney and Melbourne both made representations to the Federal Government for matching dollar for dollar funding for a Universal Exposition in the 1988 bicentennial year, however, citing the costs of the new Parliament House in Canberra, also to be opened in the same year, these proposals were knocked back.[4]

Brisbane, under Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, then developed Maccomick's earlier proposal to host an international-scale exposition, however at no cost to the Australian taxpayer, a world's first 'free enterprise' World Exposition, which the Federal Government rubber stamped.

With federal representation, at the December 1983 BIE General Assembly, Brisbane won the right to hold the 1988 World Exposition, as a specialised international exposition. Immediately, the Brisbane Exposition and South Bank Redevelopment Authority was formed with Sir Llewellyn Edwards, State Deputy Premier, at the helm. Maccormick later was appointed as Joint Chief Architect of the Expo, under the architectural firm Bligh Maccormick 88.


World Expo 88 occupied a mixed usage 40-hectare resumed parcel of land on the South Bank of the Brisbane River, opposite the city's central business district. For many years this mainly industrial area had been largely derelict. The creation of Expo, along with the recent construction of the Queensland Cultural Centre, helped to revive the area.[5]

Around 100 works of sculpture were either commissioned, purchased or borrowed for World Expo 88 at a cost of $25 million dollars. Large sun sails were erected over the site to provide shade from the hot Queensland climate.[6] These became an icon of the Expo, becoming an element of Expo's sun-sails logo. Two thousand kilometers of telecommunication wire were laid during construction of the site.[6]

A AU$4.5 million 88-metre symbolic tower for the Expo was constructed, called The Night Companion, which featured a gold and copper dome black spire top, with a xenon laser beam eye that scanned the Brisbane horizons each Expo evening up to 60km away.

A monorail was constructed for World Expo 88 to take visitors quickly around the Expo site. Costing AU$12 million, it consisted of 2 stations at either end of the site, 2.3 kilometres of track and 4 nine-carriage trains. The route included going through the Queensland Pavilion, across the Pacific Lagoon and beside the Brisbane River. The system was able to carry 44,000 passengers per day. Following Expo, part of the monorail joined the existing Sea World monorail system.

A ticket to the fair allowed entry to the World Expo Park amusement park at the same location. Although originally intended to be a permanent feature, the park remained open for only one year after Expo had closed.[7]

The Fair

World Expo 88 as seen from the Brisbane River. The Expo sunsails and the Expo tower Night Companion can be seen clearly here, as well as the monorail. Some of the rides of the World Expo Park can be seen in the background. The 'cubistic flotilla' can be seen in the foreground.

World Expo 88 was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia on 30 April 1988 to much fanfare. The fair attracted more than 18 million visitors, including staff and VIPs, more than double the predicted 7.8 million, and was considered a turning point in the history of Brisbane, which had recently successfully hosted the XIIth Commonwealth Games in 1982.

The Commissioner General for World Expo 88 was Sir Edward Williams (who was also the Chairman for the also very successful XIIth Commonwealth Games). The Chairman and Chief Executive was former State Government Minister, Sir Llewellyn Edwards. The Gerenal Manager was Bob Miniken and the Entertainment Director was Ric Birch.


1988 Soviet commemorative stamp
Participating Nations
 Australia  Brunei  Canada People's Republic of China China
 Cook Islands  Cyprus  Fiji  France
 Greece Hungary Hungary  Indonesia  Italy
 Japan  Kenya  Malaysia  Nepal
 New Zealand  Pakistan  Papua New Guinea  Philippines
 Singapore  Solomon Islands  South Korea  Soviet Union
 Spain  Sri Lanka  Switzerland  Thailand
 Tonga  United Kingdom  United States  Vanuatu
 Vatican City Germany West Germany  Western Samoa Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Yugoslavia

Despite late entrants into the Exposition due to domestic political measures, World Expo 88 attracted some 100 pavilions, from 52 governments, of which 36 were from international-level, and numerous corporate participants. Major western and European nations were represented such as the United States, the Soviet Union (last representation at a World Exposition), France, West Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Spain and Greece, as well as major Asian countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Nepal, Pakistan, China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia, amongst others. Close neighbouring countries, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea were also represented.

State-level and multi-lateral organisations included the six Australian states, the United Nations, the European Union, Vatican City, three American states (Hawai'i, California and Alaska), one Japanese prefecture (sister state of Queensland, Saitama Prefecture), and one Japanese city (Brisbane's sister city Kobe City).

Corporate pavilions included IBM, Ford, Fujitsu, Queensland Newspapers, Australia Post, Cadbury Chocolate, Suncorp, and the Queensland Teachers Credit Union. NASA and Universal Studios hosted outdoor exhibits, with models of the space shuttle and apollo program, as well as the car KITT from the TV series Knight Rider.

The most expensive pavilion was Japan ($26AUD million), followed by the Queensland Pavilion ($20AUD million) and the Australia Pavilion ($18AUD million). The largest Pavilions were also Queensland, followed by Australia then Japan.

High Definition TV received its Australian premiere at the Japan Pavilion, and the text-based Internet at the Swiss Pavilion.

The top 'five' Pavilions were considered to be Australia, with its special effects 'Dreamtime Theatre'; Queensland, with its popular people mover ride through Queensland of the present and the future; Japan with its Japan Pond and Garden and hi-tech displays; Switzerland, with its artificial snow ski slope and cable car ride; and Nepal, with its 3-level hand-crafted Nepal Peace Pagoda.


For the most part, pavilions were housed in pre-fabricated units constructed by the expo authority, with the exception of the Nepal Peace Pagoda, of Nepal, and aspects of the Kingdom of Thailand Pavilion, amongst others. The Australia Pavilion and Queensland Pavilion, side by side, were also custom-made, with the exterior of the Australia Pavilion notably in the shape and colours of Uluru (Ayers Rock).


Sunsails logo and World Expo '88 sign at night
The Australian platypus Expo Oz was a part of the success of the Expo

As well as the popular platypus mascot Expo Oz, designed by Disney's Imagineering Division, there were several themed initiatives that promoted World Expo 88, most notably the Expo's two interchangeable brands (as noted above): one an boomerang-styled '88' on a wire frame globe, and the colourful sunsails logo, which superimposed aspects of the Expo's entertainment on a relief of one of the Expo's popular sun sails (designed by Ken Cato, of Cato Purnell Partners).

The logos were used extensively throughout the Expo site as well as souvenirs, and a costume Expo Oz could be seen as part of the daily parades, shows, and other variety performances. Over 500 items of souvenir memorabilia were made using Expo Oz's image. Expo Oz also featured in extensive international tours in the lead-up to the Expo, to Europe, the USA and Japan.

The theme song of the Expo, 'Together We'll Show the World!' by Frank Millward and Carol Lloyd, was also an important rallying point in promoting the Expo in the lead-up to and during phases of the fair, and captured a sense of the excitement of the Expo.

The colourful theme for the Australia Pavilion, which became synonymous with the hosting of the Expo with Australia as host nation, was designed by prominent Australian artist Ken Done, and featured huge playful colourful letters making up the word Australia in an Australia Pavilion Entrance set, and Exit set, with the entrance set a stack of nine, 3x3, some 2.1 metres high each, and the exit set, in a line of nine letters, some 5.6 metres high each. These letters became a very popular photo opportunity for the Expo, and the theme was also found on the brightly coloured Australia Pavilion uniforms also.


The $38 million entertainment program featured acts from all over Australia and the world at a variety of custom-made performance venues on the World Expo 88 site from the 10,000-seat spectacular open-air River Stage (for national day events, opening and closing ceremonies and large-scale events), the 850-seat piazza for circus, marching band, acrobatics, magic and mime, and the smaller-scale amphitheatre for national day ceremonies and laser shows. The River Stage was also the venue for the popular evening fireworks and large-scale laser show, set to music, each Expo evening at 10pm.

Big international and Australian names were a feature at World Expo 88. Perennial Australian favourites such as Little River Band, Mental as Anything, the Cockroaches, Joe Camilleri and the Black Sorrows, John Farnham, Julie Anthony, Simon Gallaher, and Jon English, were regular performers, joined with Julio Iglesias, John Denver, Donny Osmond, Cher, Phyllis Diller, and a wide variety of international theatre, opera and classical music at the adjoining (separate ticket admission) World Expo on Stage program at the Queensland Performing Arts Complex.

The exposition averaged 100,000 visitors a day, with highest day of attendance being 184,000 visitors on 29 October 1988, the last day before the closing ceremony.

At the closing ceremony of World Expo 88 at the River Stage, a concert showcased all the Expo's entertainers singing and dancing. The concert finished up with the famous Australian pop-folk band, The Seekers, singing one of their most famous songs "The Carnival Is Over" at the very end of the celebrations, in what has become an Australian tradition. As Judith Durham was not available to join the other Seekers for the Expo '88 Closing Ceremony celebrations, Australian soprano Julie Anthony joined the group as the lead vocalist in her stead. During the events of the Expo's closing ceremony, the Night Companion's light beam was stilled. Sir Llewellyn Edwards concluded the Expo with the words "With the Prime Minister, Mr Premier, my Lord Mayor, distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen – as the Prime Minister indicator, the carnival is now over, Expo '88 has come to a close." A massive fireworks display soon followed, with a burning icon of the World Expo 88 sun sails logo set alight on the Brisbane River.


The Nepal Peace Pagoda and South Bank Parklands

After the end of World Expo 88, various contingency plans were mooted as to possible future developments. One proposal was for a second central business district area to be developed, however this proposal was rejected. A second proposal, incorporating extensive parklands, boutique retail, as well as low-medium residential development, was later accepted, and four years after the closure of World Expo 88, the site was reopened as South Bank Parklands, which is managed by the South Bank Corporation, a State Government corporation.

The only remaining traces of the Exposition on the former site are the Nepal Peace Pagoda, part of the Nepalese representation from the Expo, a traditional three-storey hand-made wooden replica of a famous Pagoda in Kathmandu, the Board Walk at the south end of the parklands, and two (since renovated) pubs, the Plough Inn and the Ship Inn.

The River Stage and the Suncorp Piazza

Two of the most popular performing arts venues from World Expo 88 took on a new form at the conclusion of the Expo as the Brisbane River Stage and the Suncorp Piazza at new venues at the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens and South Bank Parklands. These two outdoor performing arts venues today welcome visitors to a variety of performing arts genres.

The Skyneedle

The Skyneedle at Expo '88

The Skyneedle (or "Night Companion") is 88 m (289 ft)-high and beams light skywards with a visibility of more than 60 km (37 mi) during special events.

The Skyneedle, which was originally built for World Expo 88, was to be relocated to Tokyo Disneyland after the Expo. Hairdresser and local celebrity Stefan bought the rights and moved it 500 m (1,640 ft) from its original location at South Bank to his corporate headquarters in South Brisbane, where it remains a local landmark.

Sculpture park

During World Expo 88, the park was filled with 90 sculptures, one of the largest and most prestigious displays the country had ever hosted.[8] Sixteen pieces were commissioned for the event, while others were on loan. Also the 100-strong plaster of paris 'Human Factor' sculpture series which captured the whimsy of persons in day-to-day life, were also put up for private sale, with many of them being purchased for shopping centres and arcades. Some of the works that were for sale have been purchased by the Brisbane City Council and are on display at various places in the city today. Most notably, one can find Gidon Graetz's work 'Mirage' in the Brisbane Arcade, and Jon Barlow Hudson (USA)'s work "Morning Star II", located at the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens.

One can view and take part in a Heritage Walk of some of the major works at the World Expo 88 Art Heritage trail at Foundation Expo '88.[9]

The Japan Pond and Garden

The Japan Pond and Garden from the Japanese Government Pavilion was gifted to the City of Brisbane at the end of the Expo and was re-located to the Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens.

Australia Pavilion letters

The colourful, large Australia Pavilion letters, designed by Australian artist Ken Done were synonymous with the success of the Expo, and were purchased by Shaftesbury Citizenship Campus at the end of the Expo, for their Burpengary Campus. From the end of Expo till 2008 the letters could be viewed along the Bruce Highway near Burpengary as one approaches Brisbane City, a reminder of their successful role at World Expo 88. Although the letters are presently for sale,[10] it is not known their future intended location.

World Expo Park – the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

World Expo Park, the Expo's theme park located adjacent to the Expo site, was intended to be a permanent legacy of the Expo at its conclusion. Citing lack of patronage, however, it closed down just a year after the Expo closed its doors. The site of World Expo Park was re-developed into the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Queensland Pavilion

The Queensland Pavilion was purchased by the Gateway Baptist Church, and now stands on their Mackenzie premises.


On 30 April 2004, sixteen years after World Expo 88's official opening, a non-government not-for-profit commemorative foundation for the Exposition was launched, named Foundation Expo '88, comprising of a commemorative website, association and museum. The Association, The Friends of the Pagoda Association, bases its activities at the Nepal Peace Pagoda from the Expo, which houses at the Pagoda first level a commemorative Museum display of memorabilia from Expo.

The Foundation and Association host activities at the Pagoda, including two Annual meetings on the anniversary dates of the opening and closing of the Expo, on 30 April and 30 October, as well as events that further the memory of World Expo 88 on the local and international stage.

20th Anniversary Celebrations

Celebrations for the 20th Anniversary of World Expo 88 were held at South Bank Parklands during May 2008. Celebrations included a charity dinner on 9 May at the Great Hall of the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, and a community day of celebration on 10 May, which popularly featured entertainment from the Expo, fireworks, interpretive displays and themed walks, and a Suncorp Spirit of Expo Staff Breakfast,[11] also attended by then Lord Mayor of Brisbane Sallyanne Atkinson, and Expo Chair and CEO Sir Llewellyn Edwards.



  1. ^ Foundation Expo '88 About Expo —Foundation Expo 88
  2. ^ "About World Expo '88". Retrieved 2008-02-23.  
  3. ^ Foundation Expo 88 interview
  4. ^ Origins of Expo — Foundation Expo 88
  5. ^ "History of South Bank site" (PDF). South Bank Corporation. Retrieved 2008-08-27.  
  6. ^ a b "Brisbane World Expo '88 publisher = New2Brisbane". 2007-04-10. Retrieved 2008-08-24.  
  7. ^ "World Expo Park". & Total Thrills. 2007-05-21. Retrieved 2008-08-27.  
  8. ^ Bacon, Phillip; World Expo 88 (1988). Sculpture : the World Expo 88 collection. Brisbane, Australia: Philip Bacon Galleries. pp. 5. ISBN 0731627636.  
  9. ^ About the Trail — Foundation Expo 88
  10. ^
  11. ^ 88 South Bank celebrates 88

External links

Preceded by
Expo 86
World Expositions
Succeeded by
Expo '92


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