Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Mystique of Expo 67

[Image: 500px-Expo_67_logo.svg.png]

The Mystique of Expo 67

By Konomi Fujimiya
The Daily Magi
September 6, 2061


The 1967 International and Universal Exposition or Expo 67, as it was commonly known, was the general exhibition, Category One World's Fair held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, from April 27 to October 29, 1967. It is considered to be the most successful World's Fair of the 20th century, with the most attendees to that date and 62 nations participating. It also set the single-day attendance record for a world's fair, with 569,500 visitors on its third day.

Expo 67 was Canada's main celebration during its centennial year. The fair was originally intended to be held in Moscow, to help the Soviet Union celebrate the Russian Revolution's 50th anniversary; however, for various reasons, the Soviets decided to cancel, and Canada was awarded it in late 1962.

The project was not originally overwhelmingly supported in Canada. It took the determination of Montreal's mayor, Jean Drapeau, and a new team of managers to guide it past political, physical and temporal hurdles. Defying a computer analysis that said it could not be done, the fair opened on time.

After Expo 67 ended in October 1967, the site and most of the pavilions continued on as an exhibition called Man and His World, open during the summer months from 1968 until 1981. By that time, most of the buildings — which had not been designed to last beyond the original exhibition — had deteriorated and were dismantled. Today, the islands that hosted the world exhibition are mainly used as parkland and for recreational use, with only a few remaining structures from Expo 67 to show that the event was held there.

After 1967, the exposition struggled for several summer seasons as a standing collection of international pavilions known as "Man and His World." However, as attendance declined, the physical condition of the site deteriorated, and less and less of it was open to the public. In 1975 the Île Notre-Dame section of the site was completely rebuilt around the new rowing and canoe sprint (then flatwater canoeing) basin for Montreal's 1976 Summer Olympics. Space for the basin, the boathouses, the changing rooms and other buildings was obtained by demolishing many of the former pavilions and cutting in half the area taken by the artificial lake and the canals. In 1976, a fire destroyed the acrylic outer skin of Buckminster Fuller's dome. With the site falling into disrepair, it began to resemble ruins of a futuristic city. Minor thematic exhibitions were held at the Atlantic pavilion and Quebec pavilion, until the Montreal Casino was built. The remaining original exhibits of the site closed for good in 1981.

After the Man and his World summer exhibitions were discontinued, the former site for Expo 67 on Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame was incorporated into a municipal park run by the city of Montreal. In 2000, the park was renamed from Parc des Îles to Parc Jean-Drapeau, after Mayor Jean Drapeau, who brought the exhibition to Montreal. In 2006, the corporation that runs the park also changed its name from the Société du parc des Îles to the Société du parc Jean-Drapeau. Two prominent buildings remain in use on the former Expo grounds: the American pavilion's metal-lattice skeleton from its Buckminster Fuller dome, now enclosing an environmental sciences museum called the Montreal Biosphère; and Habitat 67, now a condominium residence. Also, the French and Quebec pavilions now form the Montreal Casino. La Toundra Hall is part of the surviving structural remains of the Canadian pavilion. It is now a restaurant and special events hall. Another part of the pavilion now serves as the administration building of Parc Jean-Drapeau. Katimavik's distinctive inverted pyramid and much of the rest of the Canadian pavilion were dismantled during the 1970s. Place des Nations, where the opening and closing ceremonies were held, also survives. Other remaining structures include sculptures, lampposts and landscaping. The Montreal Metro subway still has at least one "Man and His World" logo on a station's wall. La Ronde survives, and since 2001 it was leased to the New York amusement park company Six Flags. The Alcan Aquarium built for the Expo remained in operation for a number of decades until its closure in 1991. The Expo 67 parking lot was converted into Victoria STOLport, an experimental short-take off airport in the 1970s.

Another attraction on today's Île Notre-Dame site is the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve race track that is used for the Canadian Grand Prix. The Olympic basin is used today by many local rowing clubs. A beach was built on the shores of the remaining artificial lake. There are many acres of parkland and cycle paths on both Île Sainte-Hélène and the western tip of Île Notre-Dame. In previous years the site has been used for a number of events such as a BIE sponsored international botanical festival, Les floralies. The young trees and shrubs planted for Expo 67 are now mature. The plants introduced during the botanical events have flourished also.

In a political and cultural context, Expo 67 was seen as a landmark moment in Canadian history. In 1968, as a salute to the cultural impact the exhibition had on the city, Montreal's new Major League baseball team, the Expos (now the Washington Nationals), was named after the event. 1967 was also the year that invited Expo guest Charles De Gaulle, on July 24, addressed thousands at Montreal City Hall by yelling out the now famous words: "Vive Montréal... Vive le Québec... Vive le Québec Libre!" De Gaulle was rebutted in Ottawa by Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson: "Canadians do not need to be liberated, Canada will remain united and will reject any effort to destroy her unity". In the years that followed, the tensions between the English and French communities would continue. As an early 21st-century homage to the fair, satirists Bowser and Blue wrote a full-length musical set at Expo 67 called "The Paris of America" which ran for six sold-out weeks at Centaur Theatre in Montreal in April and May 2003.

Expo 67 was one of the most successful World Exhibitions and is still regarded fondly by Canadians. 1967 is often referred to as "the last good year" before economic decline, Quebec Sovereignism (seen as negative from a federalist viewpoint), and political apathy became common. In this way, it has much in common with the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. In 2007, a new group, Expo 17, was looking to bring a smaller-scale — BIE sanctioned — exposition to Montreal for Expo 67's 50th anniversary and Canada's Sesquicentennial in 2017. Expo 17 hoped a new world's fair would regenerate the spirit of Canada's landmark centennial project.

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