The south bank of the Brisbane River, across from the CBD, was a dilapidated area. It was a virtual eyesore. The Queensland Government resumed the buildings and developed the area, which covered 40 ha, for the Expo.
The theme of the Expo was "Leisure in the Age of Technology". There were 72 pavilions with 36 countries, 52 government agencies and 50 corporations pariticipating. It was open every day for 184 days. No cars were allowed but people could come by train, bus, ferry, hovercraft and seaplane.
People came in their thousands, close to 100,000 per day. It is hard to describe the feelings of pleasure, interest and excitement.
Entertainment was happening everywhere, acrobats, clowns, mime artists, dancers, musicians, marching bands - and that was just the casual live events. 'Talking Heads' on pedestals startled pedestrians passing by when these inanimate objects engaged passerby's in conversation Humanoid robots greeted people in 32 languages. It was a very interactive experience.
At the 10,000 seat River Stage are groups such as Little River Band, Icehouse, Mental as Anything and Black Sorrows performed. John Farnham, John Denver, Jon English, Julie Anthony, Donny Osmond, Cher, Phyllis Diller and many others entertained the people there too.
Then there were the pavilions!
The USA promoted sport with Virtual Golf and Basketball.
Switzerland operated a subzero indoor ski slope with artificial snow, something most Queenslanders had never experienced before.
New Zealand had the most popular pavilion, screening an animated presentation of the cartoon 'Footrot Flats'.
The Holy See had priceless treasures from the Vatican. It was interesting to see the clothing and footwear worn by popes many centuries ago.
Japan had the largest pavilion other than Australia. They created a beautiful traditional Japanese Garden and tearooms. They also had the first High Definition television in Australia.
The most outstanding was Nepal's 'Peace Pagoda', a replica of a Pagoda in Kathmandu. 162 Nepalese families worked for two years crafting it before it was shipped to Brisbane. It was 3 stories high with a beautiful tea house on the second level. The people of Brisbane lobbied to keep it in Brisbane after the Expo. It can now be seen on the banks of the Brisbane River in the City Gardens.
West Germany (East Germany still being part of the USSR) had a traditional Bavarian restaurant/beehall seating 1,300 with the attendants wearing traditional Bavarian costumes. This was a favorite place for the young people, especially popular was the 'Chicken Dance' that seemed to send them into a frenzy
My favorite exhibit was the Magna Carta. It was one of the four original calf skin copies.
The restaurant I frequented the most was in the USSR pavilion. The food was nice but I liked to experience the restrictions and supervision of the Soviet Union without any consequences.
These were just a few of the many wonderful restaurants, pavilions and entertainment.
The Closing Ceremony concert ended with Julie Anthony with the Seekers singing 'The Carnival is Over'. There was a sense of gloom when the Expo ended. It was referred to as 'Post Expo Blues'. The Government provided therapists for those needing help.
More than 18.5 million people visited World Expo 88, that was more than the total population of Australia at that time. It was a financial success too, with no public debt or liabilities.
It changed Brisbane from its 'Big Country Town' image to a vibrant cosmopolitan city - and I was there.