Friday, 12 May 2017

A City EXPOses Itself - And Changes Forever

It may not seem like 'yesterday', but it sure feels like Brisbane’s World Expo 88 was a lot fewer than 29 years ago.

I read today the City is looking at how to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Expo and typically, a statue is being considered.

The Brisbane Times describes Expo 88 with these 5 bullet points:

·         It was staged on 40 hectares of land at South Brisbane, which became South Bank.
·         It cost $625 million to stage.
·         It had 15,760,000 visitors.
·         It had a monorail and 100 pavilions with 36 from overseas.
·         It showcased something called 'the internet' in the Swiss pavilion.

I was a moderately regular visitor to the event and recall many of the pavilions. More so, it was the atmosphere I enjoyed.

All ages, from all points of the globe came together with like objectives, to learn and have fun.

The need to queue to access activities, food and pavilions meant conversations between strangers struck up. Australians talked to Canadians who talked to Indians who talked to Africans. Barriers were broken down. Queenslanders even talked to New South Wales visitors.

But it was the change to the lifestyle of Brisbane as a city that in my opinion was most obvious. Brisbane grew from a large country town to a young Cosmopolitan City.

I had been living in Brisbane for about three years when Expo opened. While I enjoyed Brisbane, it was still a City that effectively closed at about 8pm. There was little variety in Restaurants and within each restaurant, little variety in menu or wine list. I used to say with absolute sincerity that I could order a bottle of wine at any restaurant without need to look at the wine list; such was the similarity of lists and the limit of choices.

Petrol Stations worked on a roster at weekends, street lights turned off at midnight and there were no 24 hour convenience stores. Hotels traded for a two hour period, twice each Sunday and the late afternoon or early evening period was known as the Sunday swill.

Restaurants opened and diversified as a result of Expo visitors. They responded to the demand from international and interstate visitors. Locals enjoyed the new offerings and embraced the changes, which continued and further evolved post Expo.

Brisbane people became used to going out, exploring their city and being proud of it. The “chip” came off the shoulder. Dare I say, Queenslanders became a little less parochial and more inclined to identify as Australians rather than predominantly Queenslanders.

Hotels opened on Sundays, Petrol was available 24 hours a day and slowly, shopping laws were modernised.

Brisbane became a little more cosmopolitan and more accepting of the world at large. Brisbane became more accommodating to visitors and its residents more open to travel the world.

Expo 88 was fun, but more than that, it changed Brisbane and Queensland, and did so for the better.

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