British Columbia·Photos

Expo 86 then and now: A look at the world fair's legacy landmarks

Expo 86 left Vancouver with the SkyTrain, a stadium, the convention centre and Science World.

Expo 86 left Vancouver with the SkyTrain, Science World, a downtown stadium and a convention centre

Archive photo from the City of Vancouver — showing people hanging out at park for Expo 86 — is held up against a sunny day in 2016. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Most people remember Expo 86 fondly as Vancouver's coming of age, while others who opposed it 30 years ago remember the darker side of tenant evictions from the Downtown Eastside.

Still, there's no denying the 1986 world's fair left a legacy still enjoyed today.

The SkyTrain

Experts say the SkyTrain is one of Expo 86's most significant legacies. This City of Vancouver archive photo shows the Main Street terminal SkyTrain station during construction. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

John Atkin, a Vancouver historian said the initial reaction to the SkyTrain was evenly divided. He argues the rapid transit system has had a positive and lasting impact on the region. 

Waterfront Skytrain station seen here in a City of Vancouver archive photo shows that other than the stores and a few chairs, not much has changed. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The SkyTrain line started in Downtown Vancouver and originally went as far as New Westminster. The SkyTrain now carries one hundred million passengers a year and expanded into Surrey in the 1990s.

In 2009, the service expanded to Richmond with the introduction of the Canada Line which was built in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics. 

Science World

The City of Vancouver archive photo shows Science World and BC Place then and now. (Amrit Gill/CBC)

The dome was built as part of Expo 86 and at the time was called the Expo Centre. 

Bruno Freschie, the chief architect of Expo 86, decided to make the centre of the exposition stand out. 

The geodesic dome was inspired by the late architect, inventor and designer, Buckminster Fuller. 

Science World like many other buildings and exhibits built for the world fair was set to be dismantled, but public lobbying campaigns called for the structure to be turned into a centre for science and technology. 

Science World, as we know it, was unveiled to the public in 1988. 

Plaza of Nations

The Plaza of Nations, as seen here in this City of Vancouver archive photo, was humming with music and full of people. Today, it is nearly deserted. (Amrit Gill/CBC)

As the name suggests, the Plaza of Nations — located on the northeast shore of False Creek — was the big celebration space for Expo 86. 

Atkin says what is missing today is a huge transparent roof, which was torn down in 2007 after being deemed unsafe by city officials. 

The once-important ceremonial space is now mostly vacant with a few night clubs in one building and the Edgewater Casino on the other side.

B.C. Place

B.C. Place is on the list of Expo 86 legacies, though the half-a-billion dollar retractable roof was installed later. This City of Vancouver archive shows the old roof. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC )

In many ways B.C. Place helped generate the world fair, said Atkin. 

The current home of the B.C. Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps FC was built because the city like many other cities in North America was searching for a downtown stadium, said Atkin.

The stadium was once an air-supported domed stadium but is now has the largest retractable roof of it's kind.

Canada Place Trade and Convention Centre

Canada Place was the Canadian Pavilion during Expo 86. This City of Vancouver archive photo shows not much has changed. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The Canada Place Trade and Convention Centre was built because years before Expo there was talk of Vancouver's need for a convention centre, said Atkin. 

Canada Place was the site of the Canada Pavilion during Expo.

The iconic landmark with fabric roofs that resembles sails is now a tourism hub and serves as the port for cruise ships and much more.

The view from the top of Harbour Centre ... then and now. (Amrit Gill/CBC)

With files from the CBC's The Early Edition and Jason D'Souza, Margaret Gallagher, Amrit Gill.