Universal Exposition or Expo (short for "exposition"), also known as the World Fair and World's Fair, is the name given to various large public exhibitions held in different parts of the world.The first Expo was held in The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, 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 was the first international exhibition of manufactured products. As such, it influenced the development of several aspects of society including art and design education, international trade and relations, and even tourism . Also, it was the precedent for the many international exhibitions, later called “World’s Fairs”, which were subsequently held to the present day. In Acapulco, New Spain (Mexico), annual fairs took place for several centuries where countries from Asia exhibited their products brought to the New World by the Spanish Royal Navy Nao de China.
The main attractions at World's Fairs are the national pavilions, created by participating countries. At Expo 2000 Hanover, where countries created their own architecture, the average pavilion investment was around €13 million. Given these costs, governments are sometimes skeptical about participation as benefits are often assumed not to outweigh the costs. Tangible effects are difficult to measure; however, an independent study for the Dutch pavilion at Expo 2000 estimated 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.
Since the signing of the 1928 Convention on International Exhibitions, the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE; English: International Exhibitions Bureau) has served as an international sanctioning body. BIE-approved fairs are divided into a number of types: universal, international or specialized. They usually last between three and six months.
World's Fairs originated in the French tradition of national exhibitions, a tradition that culminated with the French Industrial Exposition of 1844 held in Paris. It was soon followed by other national exhibitions in continental Europe, and finally came to London where the first real international exhibition was held on May 1st of 1851.
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 first era could be called the era of 'industrialization' and covered, roughly, the period from 1800 to 1938. In these days, world expositions were especially focused on trade and famous for the display of technological inventions and advancements. World expositions were the platform where the state of the art in science and technology from around the world was brought together. The world expositions of 1851 London, 1889 Paris, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago 1893, 1900 Paris, 1904 St. Louis and 1915 San Francisco exhibitions can be called landmarks in this respect. Inventions such as the telephone were first presented during this era. An important part of the image of World's Fairs stems from this first era.
The 1939 New York World's Fair and the 1949 Stockholm World's Fair represented a departure from the original focus of the expositions. From then on, World's Fairs became more strongly based on a specific theme of cultural significance, and began to address issues of humankind. They became more future oriented and 'utopian' in scope. Technology and inventions remained important, but no longer as the principal subjects of the Fair. "Building The World of Tomorrow"(New York, 1939) and Sports (Stockholm, 1949) are examples of these 'new' themes. Cross-cultural dialogue and the exchange of solutions became defining elements of the expos. The dominant Fair of this era arguably is Montreal's Expo 67. It was also during this time, specifically in the 1960s, that BIE organizers started calling World's Fairs "Expo's".
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.
Today's world expositions embody elements of all three eras. They present new inventions, facilitate cultural exchange based on a theme, and are used for city, region and nation branding.
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 next registered exposition will be Expo 2010 in Shanghai.
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.
There is also a third category of exposition - the horticultural exhibitions, which is a joint BIE and AIPH-sanctioned 'garden' fair, where gardens and garden pavilions take the form of a participant's representation. The 2006 Royal Flora Ratchaphruek in Chiang Mai, Thailand can be considered an example of the category.
Universal 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. Universal expositions are usually held less frequently than specialized or international expositions 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 Universal Expositions include Brussels Expo '58, Montreal Expo 67, Osaka Expo '70, and Seville Expo '92. Sometimes pre-fabricated 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 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 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. The fair was held through two six-month periods over two years. 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 Governments did participate in the world's fair. Frederick Pittera, (a producer of international fairs and exhibitions and author of the history of world's fairs in the Encyclopædia Britannica and Comptons 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 D. Lesesne (Inventor of the 'Shopping Mall'). The Eisenhower Commission ultimately awarded the world's fair bid to New York City against several major USA cities.
The 1939-1940 New York World's Fair obtained BIE approval about four months before the gates were set to open, and even though the Fair lasted two seasons, the BIE endorsed the second season also. Originally, the 1939 Fair was not supposed to have a second season, but debts from the first season were hoped to be paid off if the fair re-opened in the spring of 1940.
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 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.
International expositions are usually united by a common theme—such as Transportation (Vancouver Expo 86), or, 'Leisure in the Age of Technology' (Brisbane, Expo '88). Such themes are narrower than the wider scope of Universal expositions.
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 pre-fabricated structure already completed. Countries then have the option of 'adding' their own colours, design etc. to the outside of the pre-fabricated structure and filling in the inside with their own content. One example of this is China, which invariably has chosen to add a Chinese archway in the front of its pre-fabricated pavilions to symbolize the nation (Expo '88, Expo '92, Expo '93).
The 2008 International Exhibition has been hosted by Zaragoza, Spain with the theme "Water and the Sustainable Development".
Recent horticultural international exhibitions include 1990 International Gardens and Greenery Exposition, Osaka, Japan, 1999 International Garden Festival, Kunming, China, and 2006 Royal Flora Ratchaphruek, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The majority of the structures are temporary, and are dismantled at the end of the expo. Towers from several of these fairs are notable exceptions. By far the most famous of these is the Eiffel Tower, built for the Exposition Universelle (1889), which is now the most recognized symbol of its host city Paris. Some then-contemporary critics wanted the tower dismantled after the fair's conclusion.
Other major structures that were held over from these fairs:
Other outstanding exceptions:
Some World's Fair sites became (or reverted to) parks incorporating some of the expo elements, such as:
Some pavilions have been moved overseas intact:
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 impressive boulevard towards the Atomium: the restaurant "Salon 58" in the pavilion of Comptoir Tuilier.
Many exhibitions and rides created by Walt Disney and his WED Enterprises company for the 1964 New York World's Fair (which was held over into 1965) were moved to Disneyland after the closing of the Fair. Many of the rides, including "it's a small world", "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln", and "Carousel of Progress" (since moved to the Walt Disney World Resort and updated), are still in operation.
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 subway system, signs directing people to Flushing Meadows, Queens remain from the 1964-5 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.
2017 or 2018 will see a recognized exposition. Bidding may begin as early as 2012 for this smaller-sized exposition. Already, the city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada has voted to proceed with the second phase of putting together a bid for Edmonton EXPO 2017. It will coincide with Canada's 150th Anniversary. Edmonton's neighbour, Calgary, put in a competing bid for the 2017 fair in May 2009, but withdrew the bid in November 2009. Ottawa, Canada's capital, also at one point had plans to host the World Fair in 2017.  As of November 2009, Edmonton is the only Canadian bidder.
2020 will see a registered category of exposition. Bidding may begin as early as 2011 for this larger sized exposition.
There are citizen efforts in American cities with the intention of bringing a World's Fair back to the United States:
The Philippines is also possibly bidding for the Expo 2020.
Copenhagen, Denmark, is also considering whether to bid for the Expo 2020.