Expo 2010: World Expo Introduction and History

With the all the current buzz about the Shanghai World Expo 2010, anticipated to be the largest Expo ever, we decided to take a look back in history to where and how the World Expo started.

The Expo – An Introduction

Expo, also known as Universal Exposition, or World(‘s) Fair is a large public exhibition held in turns by different cities in the world. The Expo is typically characterized by the National Pavilions, where participating countries would display their own architecture and exhibit their nations’ technologies and cultures. With such an Internationalized Exhibition, the World Expo generates global interests, attracting people all over the world to visit and experience the multi-cultural environment as well as to explore state-of-the-art technologies brought together by different countries.

A brief History of Expo

The origin of the Expo comes from the French tradition of national exhibitions which started from 1844 in Paris. Soon other parts of Europe followed and held national exhibitions. It was in London on May 1st of 1851, that the first real International exhibition was held.

crystal palace

The Great Exhibition in London 1851 and the Crystal Palace built to house the event

The expo has since evolved with time. Three eras can be distinguished:  the era of Industrialization, cultural exchange and national branding.

Industrialization (1851 – 1938)

In this first era, the World’s Fairs were especially focused on trade and famous for the display of technological inventions and advancements. They were the platforms where the state of the art in science and technology from all over the world was brought together.

In 1928, the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) started to serve as an International sanctioning body for the World’s Fair.

Cultural Exchange (1939 – 1987)

During this period, the World’s Fairs became more based on specific themes with cultural significance and started to address issues of humankind. The themes were more future oriented as well as ‘utopian’ in scope. For example, the theme for New York World’s Fair (1939) was “Building The World of Tomorrow”.

It was also during this time (in the 1960s), that BIE organizers started calling the World’s Fairs as “Expo’s”.

National Branding (1988 – now)

Since Expo  ’88 in Brisbane, the Expos have become more focused by each country towards improving their national images through their own pavilions. National branding increases in significance as National image become a key asset for each country in this world.

Today’s Expos embody elements of all three eras. They present new inventions, facilitate cultural exchange and also used by each country to promote themselves.

Main attractions of the Expo

The main attractions at a World Expo are the National pavilions. Participating country will each build their pavilion structures on the assigned expo site. These pavilions will often showcase each country’s architectural creativity and skills.

The final result is a massive and grand display of beautiful and fascinating buildings on the site. Exploring through the uniquely designed national pavilions is an awe-striking experience.

aichi expo

Aichi Expo 2005

UK pavilion

The UK Pavilion (artist's impression) - one of the uniquely designed pavilions for the coming Shanghai World Expo 2010.

Entering each pavilion, visitors can view the country’s exhibits, interact with the people as well as enjoy shows and performances specially prepared for the event.

The Expo started a tradition, since 1967 at the Montreal Expo, of the “Expo Passport”, where visitors are given a passport booklet. Visitors can get different commemorative seals at each pavilion to be stamped on the expo passport.

expo passport

Expo passport for Shanghai World Expo 2010. The passports are the size of real passports and have pictures of pavilions inside

Categories of Expo

There are two types of world exposition – Registered (Universal Exposition) and Recognized (International Exposition).

Registered (Universal)

Registered Expos are the biggest in scale and may last between six weeks to six months. Registered Expos are usually spaced 5 years apart.

The upcoming Shanghai World Expo 2010 is a Registered Exposition, with the previous being Aichi Expo (2005) and the next – Milan Expo (2015).

Recognized (International)

Recognized Expos are smaller in scope and shorter in duration. The next Recognized Exposition will be Yeosu Expo (2012).

Interesting Facts of the Expo you may not know..

  • The Eiffel Tower, the most recognized symbol of Paris, was build for Exposition Universelle (1889) hosted in Paris.
Eiffel Tower in construction

Eiffel Tower under construction in July 1888

  • Brussels Atomium is a monument built for Brussels World’s Fair in 1958. The original idea was to build an upside-down version of the Eiffel Tower. The idea was later replaced with a concept of an atomic structure, which Waterkeyn, the Belgian engineer, felt was more symbolic of the era.

Brussels Atomium monument

  • The World’s 1st Ferris Wheel was designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. as a landmark for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

The original Chicago Ferris Wheel, built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Expo.

  • In the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Walt Disney contributed to many of the exhibitions and rides at the site, partly in hope to retain the site as a permanent World’s Fair. This concept of a permanent World’s Fair is eventually materialized with Disney’s theme park – Epcot.

Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) is a theme park dedicated to International culture and technological innovation.


shì bó

世  博                    World Exposition  n.

jiè shào

介  绍                    Introduction   n.

lì shǐ

历 史                     History    n.

guó jiā guǎn

国    家  馆            National Pavilions  n.

hù zhào

护  照                    Passport  n.

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3 Responses to “Expo 2010: World Expo Introduction and History”

  1. tommy Says:

    Wow I cant look at who is computing all these crazy posts. Your blog is excellent and it attracts many amounts of these types people. all the best and keep up for the work!

  2. Critters In The Cove - Expo 2010 Shanghai China Says:

    [...] For World Expo history, try: http://www.expomuseum.com/ http://ilearn-culture.com/world-expo-introduction-and-history/ [...]

  3. MylesKroll Says:

    That is beauliful expo 2010 in China. I’m looking around to see if the expo 2010 china’s buildings r still standing and it’s being used or what. What is your opinions about that?

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