The first international exhibition also called “The Great Exhibition” took place in an enormous structure of iron and glass known as Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park in 1851, although, the idea of an international fair, was originally conceived in France in the 19th century. The first expo formally the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations gave the opportunity to 6 million visitors to witness the displayed scientific and technological marvels from 28 different countries as well as works of art and craftsmanship.
The Exposition Universelle was initiated in Paris France in 1867, with 32 participating countries and over 9 million visitors. The expo was held by Napoleon III to rival the London International Exhibition. Outside the main venue, there were entertainment facilities such as an array of shops, amusement parks and restaurants, helping the French exposition provide a fun atmosphere like a festival. The exhibits included decorative items and not just machinery and heavy industry.
Among the most memorable expos, since then, was the 1889 Paris exposition in which the Eiffel Tower was created, a symbol of the industrial age.
From 1851, the character of the world expositions has evolved. There are three different eras that can be distinguished, the era of industrialization, the era of cultural exchange and the era of nation branding. The era of nation branding began in Expo 1988 in Brisbane onwards. Ever since, participating countries have been using the international expositions as a platform to improve and promote their national images through their pavilions.
Since 2000, Expos have taken on a significant role of raising awareness on the importance of sustainable development and addressing the crucial challenges of our time. Hannover 2000, promoted sustainable development, Aichi 2005 aimed at demonstrating that there was a clear competitive advantage in designing technology in harmony with nature, Shanghai in 2010 was another milestone, as it showcased solutions for sustainable urban development, in a world where half of the population lives in cities.
The International Universal Exhibition takes place every five years with six month duration and is regulated by the General Assembly of the International Exhibitions Bureau (BIE) in Paris. Every Expo can be seen as a global “window” through which the technological and cultural achievements of participating countries can be seen.