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“The Party’s On!” exclaims a banner on the front page of The Vancouver Sun, as, at 8:30 a.m., Expo 86 officially opens its gates to the world.
“Welcome. Come on in,” says Expo CEO Jimmy Pattison, welcoming the first paying customers.
Within two hours, 5,000 visitors will be onsite, including Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Premier Bill Bennett, and Prince Charles and Princess Diana (to whose activities The Sun dedicates two separate columns). The fair includes pavilions from 54 countries, and numerous corporations, and the day’s entertainments include a Musqueam welcome dance, the Harbour Symphony (100 boats blowing their whistles and horns in unison), and the comic stylings of mascots Goose and Beaver, “representing Canada’s best-known creatures”.
“I feel like a proud father,” beams Premier Bill Bennett, on hand to talk with visitors. “People have lined up… even in this unusual weather. You bet I am excited. You could feel it on the site all last week as everyone was getting ready for today and I know it will last all summer.”
One person who doesn’t share Bennett’s enthusiasm is Vancouver Mayor Mike Harcourt. Harcourt, who, two days previous, was suddenly dropped from the welcoming party for Charles and Diana at their official arrival ceremony, calls the development “an insult to the mayor’s office.” Harcourt has also been dropped from four other functions set to be attended by the royal couple, even though all indications from the province were that he was slated to attend.
“I think there are more civilized ways of doing things,” Harcourt says.
22 million people will ultimately attend the exposition, making it one of the largest cultural events in B.C.’s history, and leading its organizers to declare the fair an unparalleled success.
Of the $802 million in expenditures, roughly $491 million will be recouped.
Image: The monorail at Expo 86. Image courtesy of Colin Rose, licensed under the Creative Commons License 2.0