NEWS STORIES / UPSETS
Not everything ran smoothly during Expo 86. Listed below are a few of the headlines that made the papers before and during the fair.
Low-Cost Housing Obliterated
As the fair grew, opportunists came out of the woodwork. Many local hotels on Vancouver's East side decided that they'd cash in on Expo. These hotels that were formally known as "flop houses" or "low cost housing" evicted long-time residents and tried to fancy up their facades to create inexpensive accommodations for visitors. These hotels were woefully inadequate to receive the average tourist.
It was estimated that over 5000 guests to Vancouver in 1986 unwittingly booked themselves into a trashy lime green room with war issue bunk beds and a communal toilet per floor.
The Next Station is...
Have you ever wondered why every city in North America isn't buzzing with Monorails like the good books of the 1950s predicted? They're pretty to look at but Monorails are subject to mechanical problems. And the monorail that floated above the crowds at Expo '86 was no exception. It broke down no less than twice a month during the run of the fair. In one case, people were trapped in crowded cars for the better part of an hour.
From the earliest planning stages, Expo was to host a First Nations Pavilion. Every Nation in British Columbia was invited to participate but few showed interest. The reason behind this lay in the politics involved. Fearful of a repeat of Chief Dan George's ominous speech at Expo 67 (denouncing European progress in North America as nothing more than destruction of the environment and genocide to the native people), Expo 86 organizers made it clear that they would prefer the First Nations Pavilion to be a showcase of culture -- nothing more. Native people, onn the other hand, saw this as a form of censorship. In their view, World's fairs are showcases of political propaganda regardless of the size or power of the Nation involved. Thus, they wished to tell their history from their point of view with no "candy coating." As many of Expo's organizers were members of the government, this didn't sit well with the planning commission. If the pavilion was to show past injustices, Provincial and Federal governments feared the pavilion would be nothing more than a political embarrassment. It wasn't the type of pavilion provincial and federal governments wished the world to see.
With an unexpected flood of International and corporate participants joining the fair, the First Nation's Pavilion was put on the back burner and eventually forgotten.
The Rotating Sphere
dome was designed to be fitted with computerized strobe lights that
flash in unison to make the sphere appear to be constantly rotating on
its base. The initial tests of the computer system seemed fine,
it wasn't long before the computer system began to crash.
the system was too elaborate to maintain and far too costly to
Today, the strobe lights flash in random.
Expo organizers were in a constant quandary over how much fair, how much entertainment and how much hard sell would be allowed inside the fair. Corporations tended to be the most problematic in this regard. Expo organizers definitely wanted the funds but they were not terribly interested in turning the fair into a corporate shopping mall.
As corporate sponsors volleyed to become "Official EXPO 86 Sponsors," it was clear that capitalism was to end at the Expo gates. Certain competing corporations were conspicuously absent from the fair.
One large restaurant chain, for example, agreed to pump in copious amounts of money to support entertainment venues and Special Days. But they also insisted that they were to be the only restaurant on-site that could sell hamburgers. Despite some protest, the Expo organizers submitted to the demand. Other restaurant chains followed suit. Soon it was clear that there were only certain corporations allowed to sell the taco, the hot dog, and even the spinach pie.
As it turned out, hamburgers, tacos and spinach pies were available in other venues. The carefully worded contract between the corporations and Expo 86 had a loophole. Other pavilions couldn't sell anything called a hamburger, taco, or spinach pie, so it became rather interesting to see what creative names restaurants could come up with.
I had several Buffalo burgers, Mexican Meat Crisps, and Popeye pies.
Did it appear that there was a bit more pavement than park?
Years before opening day, landscape architects bought hundreds of trees for the World's Fair parklands. Side by side, the trees were placed in a nursery to grow and mature until they were to be a good size for planting. That didn't happen for 209 trees, however. Soon after it was established on the west side of the Expo grounds the nursery was forgotten and many of the trees did not survive the neglect.
Beckoned by the excitement and a free meal, a sea lion appeared along the shores of Expo 86. As the promenade was rather high off the water, the sea lion appeared to pose no threat to people so plans to re-locate him were put on hold. Despite the S.P.C.A.'s warnings not to feed him, fairgoers couldn't resist throwing the sea lion scraps. He quickly found that fish and chips discarded from the British pavilion made an easy meal. Workers at the British pavilion particularly liked this, stating that their food wasn't as bad as the world thought.
Eventually, the sea lion became very tame and quite the celebrity. The local news broadcast stories about him on radio and television. Sea lion spottings became a pastime and his whereabouts were constantly updated at information booths. The public rallied to make him an official Expo ambassador.
Whether the sea lion got too close to people or people got too close to the sea lion is uncertain, but as the sea lion landed on a busy public beach across from the fair, a concerned citizen reported the incident to the authorities. Fearing that the sea lion was sick and a danger to the public, a wildlife officer (who claimed in interviews after the fact that he did not know about the "Expo sea lion") shot it through the head with a low caliber gun. The bullet didn't kill the sea lion and it suffered for two hours before finally succumbing to the injury.