The 25th anniversary of World Expo ’88 is almost upon us. The six-month party, where South Bank is now, opened on April 30th 1988 and if you were there, it’s time to reflect and celebrate all over again! Expo was, as Lord Mayor Graham Quirk described it at the opening of the Museum of Brisbane’s Expo exhibition “Light Fantastic”, a “game-changer” for our city. It opened our eyes to a world beyond Bribie Island, it introduced us the concept of being out at night – even during the week! – and, along with the Commonwealth Games six years earlier, it was gave us confidence that “big country town” Brisbane could perform on the world stage.
Naturally our clinging to Expo puzzles those too young to remember. I
saw this tweet the other day from @Sleemol: “Brisbane’s obsession with
constantly reflecting on Expo confuses me. It sounds like it was a good
event – in 1988. Let’s move on. Surely this city’s best days are yet to
come? The Expo nostalgia feels a bit like we’re conceding nothing like
it will ever happen again”.
That was greeted with this response from @Bundynelle: “No, leave us be
to enjoy good memories. I get sad when people tell us `oldies’ to move
So has there been another Expo-like experience since 1988? Sure, there
was the 2001 Goodwill Games but – apart from the bridge named in its
honour – it’s rarely mentioned.
The G20 meeting of world leaders later this year might be a huge coup
for Brisbane but with the street closures and motorcades, it’s not
likely to leave us feeling like we’ve all been to an amazing party.
The 2018 Gold Coast (and Brisbane –some of the event are being held
here) Commonwealth Games is perhaps our next chance to tap that Expo
Certainly for a generation not old enough to remember the 1982 Games or
Expo, it will form memories to last a lifetime but the six-month party
that was Expo ’88 will still take some beating!
When I began pondering this topic on Facebook, Chris Williams offered:
“No event has been larger. It was where we learnt how to queue, how to
start up a conversation with a stranger, and most importantly, how to
thoroughly enjoy ourselves!”
My Expo memories? Well, I was only 16 so I certainly never went inside
the Munich Festhaus (that’s not to say I didn’t learn the Chicken Dance
Funnily enough, 25 years on, I get to visit every weekday. The ABC
studios at South Bank have been built on the exact location of the
Mum worked in the Queensland Pavilion. She could get me VIP access to
any pavilion which – given the length of the queues, especially for the
New Zealand Pavilion – was quite simply the best Expo perk!
What I loved about the Queensland Pavilion itself was the Reuters news
wire on computers in the main entrance.
Geeky at the time, but understandable given where I’ve ended up in life,
I used to call in on my way home from school (I would catch the train
from Central to Manly) and sit there in school uniform scrolling through
the breaking news stories! Not too many others will include that in
their Expo memories, I bet!
It goes without saying that I also enjoyed the concerts (who could
forget the Seekers singing “The Carnival is Over” on the last night?),
the high-tower diving, the monorail and the myriad street performers.
I was also one of the students chosen to line the Queen’s route as she
walked through Expo on opening day, April 30th. I’m not sure I actually
saw the royal party—we had to face the crowd—but I did my bit. I
protected Her Majesty from her masses!
If all this has you reaching for your Expo memorabilia – flicking
through your passport or pulling out your season pass – you should take a
trip to the “Light Fantastic” exhibition at the re-opened Museum of
Brisbane in City Hall.
Entry is free and 612 ABC Brisbane has an Expo ’88 Memory Booth there,
where you can tell me your story for replay on 612 Breakfast.
Sorry Gen-Y, I guess you had to be there!