Short history of Expos

Expo is the shortened form of the word exposition that both English and in French means a public exhibition.
The first world exposition recognized officially in the history dates back to 1851 and was held in London. It was called “The great exhibition of the works of industry of all nations”  but it is now remembered simplier as “The Great Universal Exhibition of London”.

expo - londra - 1851

Crystal Palace, London – 1851

It was followed by several other world expositions, in the name of Education, Innovation and Cooperation. But are they all similar? Today we tend to frame these events in the historical period and a demarcation line is fixed in the birth of the BIE (Bureau International des Expositions). The BIE is an organization created in 1928 by 31 countries which have grown to the current 168 to witness the success and importance of the Expo over time. The task of the organization is to ensure the quality and success of these world events, protect the rights of the organizers and participants and preserve their core values of education, innovation and cooperation.
BIE organization divides Expos in three periods:

  1. 1851 – 1930 (The historical exhibitions)
  2. 1933 – 1968 (After World War II)
  3. 1970 – 2015 (Since the year 2000)

Here’s the list of Expos (1851 – 1930) before the creation of BIE

  1. 1851 (LONDON – Great Britain)
  2. 1855 (PARIS – France)
  3. 1862 (LONDON – Great Britain)
  4. 1867 (PARIS – France)
  5. 1873 (VIENNA – Austria)
  6. 1876 (PHILADELPHIA – USA)
  7. 1878 (PARIS – France)
  8. 1880 (MELBOURNE – Australia)
  9. 1888 (BARCELONA – Spain)
  10. 1889 (PARIS – France)
  11. 1893 (CHICAGO – USA)
  12. 1897 (BRUSSELS – Belgium)
  13. 1900 (PARIS – France)
  14. 1904 (SAINT LOUIS – USA)
  15. 1905 (LIEGE – Belgium)
  16. 1906 (MILAN – Italy)
  17. 1910 (BRUSSELS – Belgium)
  18. 1911 (TURIN – Italy)
  19. 1913 (GHENT – Belgium)
  20. 1915 (SAN FRANCISCO – USA)
  21. 1929 (BARCELONA – Spain)
  22. 1933 (CHICAGO – USA)

Have you read the list carefully? well, do you agree that some cities were the undisputed protagonists? Paris hosted the World Fair for five times, while Barcelona, Brussels, Chicago and London twice.
The players were definitely some states: France and the US (5), Belgium (4), Spain and Italy (2). And the other states?
The dates too are not at regular intervals.
Why? the rules that we know had not yet been written and that period was related to the Industrial Revolution and Colonialism. And then … guess …. what were the most successful pavilions? they belonged to the nations that could boast the greatest technological advances but also that could expose the exoticism of their colonies and the so-called “primitive peoples”. These first 80 years of the history of Expo saw the opening of the Crystal Palace in London, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Big Wheel in Chicago … It was an opportunity to learn more about the milestones of scientific and technologic progress: the first washing machines, the first elevator, the gramophone, the wireless telegraph, the airplane of the Wright brothers, the Krupp cannon … tools that are now part of our daily lives and in some cases have been overcome but can you imagine the impact in those days?

And now the list of Expos after the creation of BIE!

  1. 1935 (BRUSSELS – Belgium)
  2. 1937 (PARIS – France)
  3. 1939 (NEW YORK – USA)
  4. 1949 (PORT-AU-PRINCE – Haiti)
  5. 1958 (BRUSSELS – Belgium)
  6. 1962 (SEATTLE – USA)
  7. 1967 (MONTREAL – Canada)
  8. 1970 (OSAKA – Japan)
  9. 1992 (SEVILLE – Spain)
  10. 2000 (HANNOVER – Germany)
  11. 2010 (SHANGHAI – China)
  12. 2015 (MILAN – Italy)

In this case too the appointments are not regular. All that makes us understand that the rules (Expos occur every five years, have a duration of six months, every time there is a competition whose arbiter is the BIE, the subject is proposed by the host country …) are very recent.
But something was about to change, radically. Technology was always the center of attention but the technology seen as a means of promoting the progress of humanity and international dialogue. Cooperation became increasingly important. At that point the “primitive men” themselves were the protagonists of Expo. It was the time of television, nylon, air conditioning, color photography …. but also the time of space travel. Brussels in 1958 marked a major change because technological development was also seen for the first time according to the concept of sustainability. Think how long we have been talking about sustainability and how much is still difficult to make some people assimilate it  fully. The Expo at Hanover, in 2000, linked its name to Agenda 21, always in the field of sustainability. While the purpose of Aichi in 2005 was to make clear to the public that it is advantageous to design the technology in harmony with nature. The sustainable development of cities was the great theme of the Expo  in Shanghai in 2010. These days Milan and Italy have a great challenge, always with a view of sustainable development: feeding the planet, energy for life!

I also want to emphasize that there are many differences between the World Expo and International Expo. The latter is set out in an interim date between two World Expos and the theme is more limited and its period shorter (three months). Below a list of International Expos taken from the official website of the BIE!

  1. 1936 (STOCKHOLM – Sweden)
  2. 1938 (HELSINKI – Finland)
  3. 1939 (LIEGE – Belgium)
  4. 1947 (PARIS – France)
  5. 1949 (STOCKHOLM – Sweden)
  6. 1949 (LYON – France)
  7. 1951 (LILLE – France)
  8. 1953 (JERUSALEM – Israël)
  9. 1953 (ROME – Italy)
  10. 1954 (NAPLES – Italy)
  11. 1955 (TURIN – Italy)
  12. 1955 (HELSINGBORG – Sweden)
  13. 1956 (BEIT DAGAN – Israël)
  14. 1957 (BERLIN – Germany)
  15. 1961 (TURIN – Italy)
  16. 1965 (MUNICH – Germany)
  17. 1968 (SAN ANTONIO – USA)
  18. 1971 (BUDAPEST – Hungary)
  19. 1974 (SPOKANE – USA)
  20. 1975 (OKINAWA – Japan)
  21. 1981 (PLOVDIV – Bulgaria)
  22. 1982 (KNOXVILLE – USA)
  23. 1984 (NEW ORLEANS – USA)
  24. 1985 (TSUKUBA – Japan)
  25. 1985 (PLOVDIV – Bulgaria)
  26. 1986 (VANCOUVER – Canada)
  27. 1988 (BRISBANE – Australia)
  28. 1991 (PLOVDIV – Bulgaria)
  29. 1992 (GENOA – Italy)
  30. 1993 (TAEJON – Korea)
  31. 1998 (LISBON – Portugal)
  32. 2005 (AICHI – Japan)
  33. 2008 (SARAGOZA – Spain)
  34. 2012 (YEOSU – Korea)
  35. 2017 (ASTANA – Kazakhstan)

Now, once examined the differences between the World and International Expos, we are ready to remember the main events. A beautiful journey following the evolution of science and technology!

Loretta Sebastiani

Italian version

Attributing the author

“Crystal Palace”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Crystal_Palace.PNG#/media/File:Crystal_Palace.PNG

Sitography

http://www.bie-paris.org/site/en

http://www.ansa.it/canale_expo2015/notizie/milano_2015/storia.html

#expo #expomilano2015 #expo2015 #bie

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