CBC Digital Archives

1967: Expo 67 dazzles at night on opening day

Expo 67 was the most spectacular of Canada's 100th anniversary celebrations. When the Montreal Universal and International Exposition of 1967 opened on April 27, it was a gleaming futuristic spectacle and a dazzling international success. On two giant islands in the St. Lawrence River more than 50 million visitors were presented with a vision of the future.

With the dazzle of lights on the midway, Expo 67 by night is a "carnival atmosphere with class." The world's fair in Montreal has thrown open its gates to the public, and visitors are thronging the site to get a first-hand glimpse of the pavilions and exhibits. But when the sun sets, the main attraction is the thrilling La Ronde amusement park. This CBC special goes live to La Ronde as opening day draws to a close.
• A world's fair to celebrate Canada's Centennial in 1967 was originally proposed by Mark Drouin, a Conservative senator, in 1958 (though the idea had been floating around since 1956). Politicians in Toronto rejected the idea, but Montreal's mayor, Sarto Fournier, liked it.
• The Canadian government applied to the International Exhibitions Bureau for a world's fair in 1967, but its submission was rejected in favour of a proposal from the Soviet Union. In 1967 the USSR would celebrate its 50th anniversary.

• In 1962 the Soviets scrapped their world's fair due to financial constraints. Montreal's new mayor, Jean Drapeau, lobbied the Canadian government to try again, and on Nov. 13, 1962, the 1967 world's fair was granted to Canada.
• For more about Expo 67, see the CBC Archives topic Expo 67: Montreal Welcomes the World.

• Mont Royal Park, overlooking Montreal, was considered as the site for Expo 67. But Drapeau's idea - to use Île Ste. Hélène in the St. Lawrence River and create a new island - ultimately won.
• Work on the site began on Aug. 13, 1963, when Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson made a ceremonial start to construction by dumping a pile of soil onto the island.

• Canadian diplomat Pierre Dupuy, commissioner-general of Expo 67, convinced 62 countries to take part - the most ever to participate in a world's fair.
• The theme of Expo 67 was "Terre des Hommes," or "Man and His World."
• Besides all the national pavilions, the fair had theme pavilions: Man the Explorer, Man the Creator, Man the Producer and Man in the Community. Canadian provinces and regions also had their own pavilions.

• The amusement park portion of Expo 67 was called La Ronde. Its biggest ride was the $3 million Gyrotron, which resembled a giant pyramid from the outside. Inside, riders experienced a simulated space voyage before being plunged into the mouth of a mechanical monster named Fred.
• In his book This Was Expo, author Robert Fulford described the Gyrotron as "a sad flop," but didn't explain why.

• Visitors could experience the rides, restaurants and beer halls of La Ronde until 2:30 a.m. nightly. The rest of the Expo site closed down at 10:30 p.m.
• The Globe and Mail said La Ronde "combines the fun of Disneyland with the thrills of Coney Island and the sophisticated adult entertainment of Paris, Montreal or Toronto."
• An estimated 315,000 visitors toured Expo 67 on opening day. About 120,000 had been expected.

• One of the defining features of Expo 67 was its crowds. Organizers had expected 35 million visitors over the event's six-month run; 50 million came.
• People lined up for everything. One of the longest lines, which sometime took four hours to get through, was for Labyrinth, a film projected to viewers in a five-storey building with three chambers.

• As of 2006, La Ronde remained an amusement park with over 40 rides. The newest ride for the 2006 season was the Goliath, Canada's largest and fastest roller coaster.
• Another Expo building, the former French pavilion, became a casino in 1993.
• Habitat '67, Expo's experiment in urban housing, also thrived and is now a chic Montreal address.

Also on April 28:
1996: A hockey era ends as the Winnipeg Jets lose their final game (until returning to the NHL in 2011). The visiting Detroit Red Wings beat the Jets 4-1 to win their Stanley Cup playoff series in five games. The Jets move to Phoenix and are renamed the Coyotes.
Medium: Television
Program: Expo 67: An International Affair
Broadcast Date: April 28, 1967
Guest(s): Susan Alexander, Ali Bagani, Donald Dimitric
Host: Alan Millar, Libbie Christensen
Duration: 4:30

Last updated: April 26, 2013

Page consulted on March 13, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

1994: Céline Dion marries her longtime manage...

Céline Dion and René Angélil exchange vows at the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal.

1990: UFO phenomenon over Montreal

A group sighting of a UFO sparks a major investigation.

1969: John and Yoko's Montreal bed-in

When John Lennon and Yoko Ono checked in at Montreal's Queen Elizabeth Hotel in 1969, it was, ...

1986: Bon appetit at Vancouver's Expo 86

Three hundred chefs. Six restaurants. Forty-two food carts. Millions of empty stomachs. Exe...

Quebec Winter Carnival

It was a merry fete celebrating pea soup and tourtière. Revellers rejoiced in the culture of l...

1968: Montreal snags baseball franchise

Montreal stuns the baseball world by landing the first Major League franchise outside the Unit...