Thirty-five years ago today, Specialised Expo 1988 Brisbane opened its gates, welcoming visitors with the slogan “Together we’ll show the world”. The Expo, which put Brisbane on a global stage and transformed the South Bank area, is still remembered as a game changer for the city. Here are five interesting facts about Expo 1988 Brisbane:

1. The opening day celebrations went beyond the Queen’s speech

While Expo 1988 Brisbane was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II, perhaps the most visible marker of the Expo’s inauguration was the arrival of a Pink Sub – complete with dancers on its deck – to the Expo 88 River Stage. Equally remarkable was that when the Expo closed on the first day, the Chairman of Organising Committee, Sir Llew Edwards, had to personally start a conga line of dancers to lead the final visitors off the Expo site.

The Pink Submarine formed part of the Expo 1988 inauguration. Image credit: Queensland State Archives

2. A special part of the site predated and outlived the Expo

The Expo hosted a museum that was already in place prior to the Expo, and that remained in place after the Expo, in the exact same location. The Queensland Maritime Museum was part and parcel of the Expo and drew tens of thousands of visitors during its run. One of its notable attractions was the WWII frigate HMAS Diamantina, where the last Japanese peace treaty was signed in 1945. After the Expo, the Pavilion of Promise was transferred to the Museum, which repurposed it as a museum hall.

3. The art collection that continues to inspire

A special part of the Expo was a collection of indigenous artworks, within the ‘Art of Central Australia’ gallery that was adjacent to the pavilion of Australia. The 27 paintings featured in this gallery were later rehomed in the Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre, built on the former Expo site, and where the G20 summit was held in 2014.

4. Expo 1988 anticipated the role of technology in leisure

With the theme of the Expo being “Leisure in the age of Technology”, the Expo showcased a range of technologies, many of which are taken for granted today. For instance, Expo 88 featured touch screens in phone booths – a first for Australia – as well as an early form of the internet to manage the Expo site, computerized lighting displays, computerized design applications on site and the first public matching of interactive TV and data storage.

5. A symbol of peace remains on the Expo site

At the other end of human creativity is the Nepalese Peace Pagoda, the only international piece of Expo 1988 that has been kept in place on the site. The Pagoda, which weights 88 short tonnes, was crafted in Nepal and promises to deliver a 1,000-year mission of peace. It is one of only three Nepal Peace Pagodas outside of Nepal.

The Nepal Peace Pagoda in 2013. Image credit: Kgbo

The article is written in memory of

Sir Llew Edwards, Chairman World Expo 88, 2/8/1936 – 26/5/2021

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