Old Expo '86 TV commercials show Vancouver in its 1980s glory

Dec 20 2017, 2:27 am

Vancouver was officially reborn to the world in 1986 when the city came together for the international World Expo, and the six-month long event was advertised in some truly fantastic TV commercials.

The YouTube channel BC History uncovered the rare clips this week, which feature the quintessential 1980’s bright colours, snappy synth music, and of course, Princess Diana.

For those not around for Expo ’86, you might notice a pattern. Transportation and Communication was the official theme of Expo and as such the advertisements clearly showcase different means of transportation through land, water, and air.


Brand new landmarks like Science World, previously the Expo Centre, BC Place, Canada Place, the SkyTrain and SeaBus – and a nifty monorail which no longer exists – and the Plaza of Nations are all shown in the series of videos. Images of Vancouver life, like sailing, the Grouse Mountain skyride, beach-going, and frisbee-tossing also make some coveted appearances.

Now, who wouldn’t want to visit this city?

[youtube id=”2YTuyKDPdHk”]

What was Expo ’86?

The 1986 World Expo on Transportation and Communication was a six-month long event located mostly on Vancouver’s North False Creek flats, an industrial wasteland before the redevelopment of Yaletown into a residential area.

From May 2, 1986 to October 13, 54 nations around the world set up pavilions showing off their technologies to the world. But the event wasn’t a trade show by any means – the city came alive with massively extravagant attractions like a roller coaster, monorail, a gondola system and dozens of shows and concerts. Some of the world’s most famous performers, like Miles Davis, Liberace, Joan Rivers, and Bill Cosby played to Expo ’86 crowds and British royalty Princess Diana and Prince Charles also made appearances.

Expo was the largest event ever to be held in B.C. until the 2010 Winter Olympics and saw a total of 22 million visitors and made $491 million in revenue, after spending over $800 million to put together. It was a major budget deficit of over $300 million, but Expo’s lasting effects on Vancouver infrastructure and world attention have been invaluable.

After the festivities ended, the area around North False Creek was sold to Concord Pacific for $320 million and has since been developed into flashy condominium towers, park land and will soon see massive redevelopment after the decision was made to tear down the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts to make room for more housing and green space.

Note: The videos posted by BC History on YouTube were compiled above by YouTube channel MyTravelClips

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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