O U N D A T I O N   E X P O  ' 8 8
Progressing the World Expo '88 Vision
- A non-government not-for-profit entity celebrating Brisbane's World Expo '88 -

Return to Table of Contents

About World Expo '88


In the early planning days of the Exposition - as the first free-enterprise funded World Expo - it was a considered, yet calculated risk. 7.8 million persons needed to have visited the Expo over the six months for it to have been a successful exercise - in other words, an average of 42,000 visits per day over the 184 days of the Exposition. For an Exposition far away from the major population centres of the World of Europe, the Americas and Asia - where predominantly the local population feed the Exposition's daily tally - hosting the Expo in Australia - and in Brisbane - with a local population of just over 1 million persons - and getting a six-month figure more than seven times that number was by no means a fait accompli. It was, a calculated risk.

With a time-line chart of each day's optimal cumulative attendance figures, the Expo Authority charted a course for success - and - romped home magnificently.

Already on the first day of the Expo -
Saturday 30 April 1988 - the day the Exposition was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the presence of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Honourable R.J.L. Hawke MP, AC; Premier of Queensland, the Honourable Mike Ahern MP; and Lord Mayor of Brisbane the Right Honourable Sally-Anne Atkinson and other distinguished guests at the perennially popular River Stage, the Expo site received a modest 77, 260 visitors.   

(The River Stage was also venue for the nightly state-of-the-art laser and fireworks show, and concert by Julio Iglesias, amongst other numerous other international and national performances, and also was the venue for the Official Closing Ceremony where some 20, 000 staff regaled to inspirational music as they watched fireworks explode from city building tops across the river  (this had never before happened in Brisbane and was a complete surprise) - and playfully tossed massive inflatable plastic globes across the crowd. Also not to be forgotten, here was also the official 'hand-over ceremony' of the Bureau of International Expositions flag from Secretary-General Madame Marie Helene Defrene to representatives from the next two World Expositions - Osaka Garden Expo '90 - and Seville Expo '92. As part of this final show at the River Stage traditional Japanese dance and also Sevillian flamenco featured - as well as a special Seville Expo '92 fireworks display which, added to the Closing Ceremony fireworks made the Closing Ceremony fireworks the longest fireworks display in Australian history.)

The following next days the daily attendance rose higher still - and in just over 13 days into the Exposition - the first Millionth visitor entered the Expo site - two weeks ahead of schedule.

It became plain to see that the 7.8 million target would not only be easily reached - but that it would probably be more than doubled. Brisbane had embraced it's new international cosmopolitan addition like a long-lost friend and the World Expo was averaging close to 100,000 visits a day. 

Then, on the second last day of the Expo - Saturday 29 October 1988 -
 a staggering 182,762 persons visited the Expo site - nearly a fifth of the population of Brisbane - with the final day of the exposition, Sunday 30 October 1988, seeing 91,137 visitors.

Tabulating the data - a joint-Tourism Queensland and James Cook University Research paper showed that:

Of non-staff visits to World Expo '88 (a total of 16, 465, 000 persons)

(i) approximately 65.4% were visits by local residents (of South-East Queensland) on day trips;
(ii) approximately 23.2% were visits by interstate visitors on overnight trips;
(iii) approximately 6.1% were visits by Queensland residents on overnight trips;
(iv) approximately 5.3% were made by overseas visitors (also on overnight trips).

Day trip visitors made an approximate 6.74 visits to the Exposition - as opposed to an average of 2.1 visits per overnight visitor. 

The final statistics for the six-month expo (including V.I.P.s and staff) came to 18, 574, 476 visits - more than the total population of Australia at the time.

Not only was World Expo '88 a success in good will and diplomacy - it had managed to pay for itself many times over - with no public debt or liabilities - reversing an alarming trend that had occurred in previous World Expositions. And, it proved that the familiar saying about Australia - 'the tyranny of distance' - was not applicable here - with Brisbane, Queensland and Australia hosting a major world-wide international event and doing so in the best of style and with daily attendance figures that would be the envy of any specialized Exposition. - even those hosted in Europe, Asia or the Americas.

Thanks to the leadership of Sir Llewellyn Edwards - who had guided the Expo from it's inception to development and delivery - with his able-bodied team of the affable Expo Oz & Friends; the Theme Song and Logos; as well as the masterful rudder of Sir Edward Williams, KBE, KCMG, Commissioner-General of World Expo '88 and Australian Commonwealth Government representative at the Exposition; the Expo Authority with General Manager Mr Bob Minnikin MBE, the eight directors of each division of the Expo - from Communications, to Entertainment, Finance & Administration, International Participation, Marketing, Operations, Site Development, and Technology, and their numerous offices, staff, and several-day contracted employees, including the thinkers, designers, press-writers, architects, engineers, builders, electricians, painters, gardeners, and artists, musicians, magicians, street performers, comedians, directors, and their assistants; the staff of the International, Australian, and Corporate Pavilions - the Commissioner-Generals and their Secretaries, and their Media & Protocol Assistants, Staff and Events Managers, and their Attendants & Guides, Assistants, Artists, Technical and Logistics Staff; and the ever-present courteous and smiling Lorraine Martin-trained and Prue Acton-designed colourfully canary-yellow uniformed and brim-hatted Expo Hosts & Hostesses and the turquoise-stripe uniformed Expo goodwill Volunteers, and the Security Staff, Ticket-Sellers and Ticket-Collectors, Souvenir Shops, Restaurants, Catering and Services Staff - that all kept to the tune and march of the 65-strong Expo City Marching Band - World Expo '88 had become an unqualified success, and a World's first in many regards.

Now the time had come to turn the next page in the Expo's story - it's re-development.


Post-Expo Blues
South Bank Corporation
The Future