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World’s Fair Closes After Drawing 22 Million

October 14, 1986

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) _ More than 26,000 Expo 86 employees and volunteers marched arm-in-arm Monday to celebrate the end of the 5 1/2 -month world’s fair that drew 9 million more visits than originally predicted.

About 50,000 people in the stands at the indoor B.C. Place Stadium, many in tears, watched as leaders of the U.S. and Soviet pavilions joined hands and led the procession onto midfield.

On its final day, 138,050 people passed through the turnstiles before tha gates closed for good at 3 p.m. That brought total attendance to 22,111,578.

The budget for Expo 86 was based on projections of 13 million visits. But the fair drew so well that the projection was revised twice, first to 20 million, then to 22 million.

Leaders of 88 other corporate, provincial and international fair participants marched in the procession to the stadium, where E.R.I. Allan, chairman of the Expo 86 steering committee, presented the Bureau of International Expositions flag to Sir Edward Williams, the commissioner general of the 1988 exposition to be held in Brisbane, Australia.

After a two-minute indoor fireworks display, the procession marched out, many participants, exchanging hugs and tearful farewells.

″Everybody had their Kleenexes ready to go,″ said Pamela Ryan, an Expo spokeswoman. ″It’s a funny kind of feeling. Everybody kind of felt they lost a friend.″

Staffers watched delightedly as attendance records were set and broken throughout the last weekend, which was blessed by unusually warm weather and bright sunshine.

Long lines snaked across much of the 174-acre site and, in some cases, people waited for hours. The most popular were the Soviet pavilion, featuring a spacecraft that visitors could walk through, the Rameses II exhibit and the Scream Machine roller coaster.

Some visitors complained about the crush, while others saw the queues as just another Expo activity.

″The feeling of the fair is what’s fun,″ said Bob Hargis of Santa Cruz, Calif. ″We’ve met a lot of good people - from Australia, Czechoslovakia, Oregon, Washington, Mexico - just talking in line.″

Prince Charles and Princess Diana were on hand when the fair opened May 2. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and other foreign dignitaries came later.

Most of the pavilions come down beginning Tuesday. The main site on an ocean inlet will be developed over the next two decades as mixed-income housing for 20,000 people, plus offices and retail space, community centers and parks. The popular Canada Pavilion will remain on its separate site as a convention and trade center.

Despite the attendance numbers, British Columbia officials still face a deficit of $311 million or more. But Expo’s cost was considered an investment in uture tourism.

The theme was ″World in Motion, World in Touch″ and drew 54 international participants - more than twice the number that took part in the world’s fairs at Knoxville, Tenn., in 1982, and New Orleans in 1984. Those fairs were financial flops.

Expo had a different set of losses.

In early May, 9-year-old Karen Ford was crushed to death in the Canada Pavilion between two walls of a revolving theater.

At least 500 people, most of them elderly and single, were evicted from residential hotels which were refurbished to draw in tourist dollars, said Jim Green of the Downtown Eastside Residents Association.

″They lost not only their friends and community, but they lost the services they relied on,″ Green said.

More than 500 guards were among the 6,000 employees of Expo and individual pavilions because of fears of terrorism, Expo chairman Jim Pattison said in a weekend interview.

″The big one never happened, but it was always on my mind,″ said Pattison, a wealthy Canadian businessman who donated three years of his life to lead the Expo effort. He also donated a psychedelic-decorated car once owned by John Lennon.

Karen Valovich came west from Waterlook, Ontario, and took a job cleaning Expo’s grounds. The fair generated 55 tons of trash a day.

″It’s going to be sad when it’s over,″ she said.

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