SPECIAL REPORT/EXPO 86

A SUPERPOWER CELEBRATION

JOHN BARBER March 17 1986
SPECIAL REPORT/EXPO 86

A SUPERPOWER CELEBRATION

JOHN BARBER March 17 1986

A SUPERPOWER CELEBRATION

SPECIAL REPORT/EXPO 86

Dale Morrison, deputy commissioner general of the U.S. pavilion at Expo 86, says that world’s fairs are not competitive events but “celebrations of the human spirit.” At the Soviet Union’s pavilion— “Transportation and communication for peace and co-operation” is its theme—Morrison’s counterparts agree wholeheartedly with that assessment. But such altruism has not stopped either nation from celebrating its own achievements. Indeed, superpower rivalry will abound, with each pavilion devoted almost entirely to showcasing achievements in manned space flight. And visitors may see that as a replay of the “sharp ideological struggles” the Soviet newspaper Pravda decried at Montreal’s Expo 67.

Strategic: But at Expo 86 the rivalry will be moderated by the presence of a third superpower: China. Expo organizers hope the first appearance of the three countries together at a North American fair will be a major attraction. With that in mind, they have given the three large pavilions strategic locations: the Chinese near the main entrance on the eastern edge, the Americans in the west corner and the Soviets in the middle. To further emphasize their prominence, there is a dock near each of the big three pavilions for a fleet of seven passenger ferries plying the waters of False Creek.

The Soviet pavilion will be the largest of the 39 international installations at Expo. It will celebrate the U.S.S.R.’s pioneering role in space with a 49-foot statue of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who became the first man in space in April, 1961. Last week the building was still only an undecorated shell, but a preliminary sketch shows an interior dominated by an equally imposing bust of the central figure of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Ilich Lenin.

Still, the highlight of the exhibition will be a duplicate of the Soyuz-Salyut space station now orbiting Earth.

While it has never been launched, the 108-foot-long structure is “the real thing,” said pavilion representative Michael Smirnov. He said the Soviets spent $1.7 million of a$5-million Expo budget just to ship it to Vancouver.

By contrast, Morrison said that last summer the United States scrapped plans to display one of its shuttles, Enter-

prise, because of the $2.6-million cost of refurbishing and transporting it to Vancouver. The Enterprise was at the New Orleans World’s Fair in 1984, but at Expo 86 the Americans will showcase their space expertise in a series of scale models. One section of the U.S. pavilion will be devoted to heroes of the space program—including the seven victims of the Challenger shuttle disaster in January. Another area will focus on spacecraft, while a third gallery will feature the space shuttle and preparations for a launch. Then, visitors will proceed to a theatre for a six-minute film depicting an actual shuttle flight into space. Made by Torontonian Christopher Chapman, it employs the “multidimensional imaging” technique he made famous with A Place to Stand, his film for the Ontario pavilion at Expo 67. The pavilion’s centrepiece will be a dramatic outer-space diorama with a scale model of the proposed U.S. space station. Said the pavilion’s exhibits director, James Ogul: “This is one thing people will remember most vividly. They walk right out onto a platform, as if they are on a shuttle about to dock with the space station.” Peddling: For their part, the Chinese are relatively new to world expositions. Absent from Expo 67—the Peking People's Daily called it a place where “Western monopoly capitalist groups peddle their goods and expand their economic aggression”—the Chinese mounted pavilions at the world’s

fairs in Knoxville, Tenn., in 1982 and New Orleans in 1984. But in both cases they were criticized by fellow exhibitors for doing exactly what they once found so offensive—peddling their wares. But China’s consul in Vancouver, Jiang Qifa, said they will have little for sale at Expo 86. Instead, the exhibits will range from bricks from the Great Wall to a model of a ship used by navigator Cheng Ho, who made seven epic voyages to the West in the 15th century.

Still, seven weeks before the opening of Expo 86, spokesmen for the big three were saying little about their plans. Secrecy is a tradition of fairs, with participating nations hoping to surprise competitors. Of course, at international expositions, there is always room for more than one winner.

JOHN BARBER