Seville Expo 92

Expo '92, "Age of Discovery"

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Quick List Info

Expo 1992 Seville Guidebook

Dates Open - April 20 to October 12, 1992.

Attendance - 41,814,571.

International Participants - 112 nations, 27 international organizations.

Total Cost - 121,642 million pesetas ($1,163 million) cost of operations. 122,265 million pesetas ($1,169 million) cost of construction. $2.332 billion (Total operations and capital investment). Expected that participants would spend an additional $1 billion on construction and operating costs.

Site Acreage - 535 acres (215 hectares).

Sanction and Type - Sanctioned by the Bureau of International Exhibitions as a Universal Registered Expo.

Ticket Cost - Daily tickets $38.32 (4,000 pesetas), 3 day (10,000 pesetas). Per Capita - $13.43 per total visitors. Expo ticket prices included Season Passes for Adults at 30,000 pesetas. An evening season pass was 10,000 pesetas.

Photo top center: Expo Site at Seville, 1992. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Column Top: Expo 1992 Guidebook, 1992, Expo Authority. Column Bottom: European Plaza, 2007. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Expo 1992 Europe Plaza

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History of the Event

Expo 1992 Poster Seville

It was a massive undertaking, this fair to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the first Columbus voyage on the theme "The Age of Discovery." The exposition would be constructed on an island in the bend of the Guadalquiver River, meant to prompt a new industrial and commercial area of the city after the exposition closed. There were pavilions dedicated to almost everything, in spectacular architecture reflected modernity, as well as the history of Spain. One hundred and ten nations came, most building their own pavilions. One hundred and seventy-four subregions, provinces, and cities of Spain participated as well. There were a variety of corporate exhibits, twenty-nine, adding to the luster.

Spain wanted to announce to the world that they were an emerging Western nation. Their goals were actually quite modest at the beginning, expecting 22 million attendance with 9 million coming from outside Spain. The site would be huge, 215 hectares, 535 acres, on the redeveloped Cartuja Island in the Guadalquivir where a small farm and monastery stood. The Monastery of Santa Maria de las Cuevas was the supposed location where Columbus and Carthusian monk, Caspar Gorricio, plotted his voyage. It would become the Royal and Government Pavilion. Thirty percent of the construction on the site was planned to remain after the fair. A good amount did. Beyond the fair site itself, the governments of Spain intended to spend $4.8 billion (some estimated it rose to $8 billion) on infrastructure improvements to bridges, the airport, and public transportation. It was a huge project. There was optimism throughout the nation, much attached to the affection for King Juan Carlos, who patronized the expo.

They weren't sparing much expense. The Spanish pavilion cost $100 million and would focus on Spanish art. There would also be a Turbo Tour theater with hydraulic seats and dome screen film with a tour of Spain. Overall income projections included $832 million in business contracts, $631 million from ticket sales, $287 million from the recoupment of assets. The legacy of the site was projected to be a technology center. Again, the fair and their post fair legacies were expected to be huge.

Above photo. Expo '92 Poster, 1992, Expo Authority. Below: Expo 1992 Mascot, Curro, 1992, Expo Authority.

Expo 1992 Seville Mascot Poster

Once the fair opened, reviews of the site were grand. Fair experts noted that it was an impressive display, enlightening, and difficult to see in less than one week. They touted the Great Britain and Morocco Pavilions as highlights. Others lauded the gardens, a tradition in Spanish fairs. There was a Garden of the Americas with plants from the New World. Many appreciated the fogging techniques with water sprays that were used to lower the outdoor temperatures. Overall, there were around one hundred pavilions. The New York Times said that the list of popular pavilions included Canada, Spain, Fujitsu, Monaco, Australia, Vatican, and the Navigation Theme Pavilion.

The fair broke through its attendance goals, reaching the 5th highest ever to a World's Fair at the time. Some criticize the number, as it may have included employees, but from an attendance standpoint, Seville was a success. It was also a success from a exhibit standpoint, with stand out structures and pavilion exhibits at every plaza turn. A profit of $70 million was declared, although some question that accounting, with some expenses pushed to the Cartuga '93 post-expo phase. In later years, news reports state the fair lost $280 million. Who knows which number is right. High prices were part of the negativity, both on and off-site in Seville. Attendance from foreign visitors were less than expected.

Historian/Participant's Perspective
John Findling - "Overall, national pride was high, but there were pockets of discontent within the political opposition at both the national and municipal level. Generally, both the media and the public were very positive about the fair; the national press ran virtually no stories (to my knowledge) that reflected badly on the fair itself, although there was some carping about the expense, etc. Fair was meant to jump-start regional economic development by showing Andalucia off to many foreign visitors. Thus the fair went beyond the theme of urban renewal seen in other recent expos. The 500th anniversary of Columbus theme was entirely appropriate for Seville, but it was a bit overwhelmed by everything else at the fair. Seville is a relatively small city (650,000) to host an event this large and there were the usual logistical problems and price gouging. On the whole, things worked out fairly well."

Leonard Levitan - "Spain, because of its geography, is a conglomeration of separate regions, most of which don't even speak the same language, eat the same food or dress the same. They also mostly dislike and terrorize each other (The Basques). So when the government in Madrid received a sanction from the BIE, the socialist government was enthusiastic that they would finally pull the economically deprived South into the overall economy of Spain. The region of Audalucia where Seville is located was also thrilled. Nobody else in Spain was. Northern Spain considers Sevillianas as the tasteless wretches of their high culture. Andalucia received billions to build their fair, a high speed rail connection to Madrid and a huge new airport, while the other regions had to pull in their belt. You could cut the national tension with a knife. Main word of mouth was how expensive it was. (General Admission was $40 U.S.) If you weren't rich or had a big piggy bank, you didn't go. It got so bad that at one point when attendance was so low, they felt compelled to reduce the entrance fees by half for certain days and certain times (i.e. after 6 PM). Poorer citizens were never able to attend unless part of funded groups."

BIE Special Expo

Expo 1992 Seville Poster

International Participants

Germany, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Holy See, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Turkey, USSR, Yugoslavia, Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Congo, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Tunisia, Zambia, Canada, United States, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Chili, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Parag., Peru, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, St. Christ. & Nevis, St.Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, China, South Korea, United Arab Emirites, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Yemen, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand, Australia, Fiji, Soloman Islands, New Zealand, Pupau New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.

Provinces/Autonomous Regions of Spain Who Built Own Pavilions: Andalucia, Aragon, Asturias, Baleric Islands, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla and Leon, Catalonia, Basque Country, Extremadura, Galicia, La Rioja, Madrid (city), Murcia, Navarre, Valencia.

Teepossible T-Shirts and Gifts

Expo Tidbits
350,000 trees were planted on the Cartuja Island site.

New York Times reported in an Editorial titled "World Class Flop in Seville," about the United States pavilion. They stated that it displayed indifference, weariness, and decline.

Record attendance day was October 3 with 629,845 visitors.

The average international pavilion had 2,277,000 visitors, at cost of $7.42 per visitor. Average participant spent $16 million to take part, including $7 million in construction costs. Average cost of square meters of pavilion space was $2,670.

Top pavilions in visitors; Saudi Arabia 5,780,000, Japan 5,207,000, China 5,150,000, Spain 5,100,000, France 4,800,000.

Theme Pavilion Attendance: Pavilion of Navigation 2,130,000, Pavilion of the Environment 1,810,000, Energy Pavilion 1,780,000, Telecommunications Pavilion 600,000, Pavilion of the Universe 1,180,000, Pavilion of the Arts 800,000.

There was a total of 90 restaurants, 147 bars, cafes, and kiosks. Also 130 carts, and 11 large mobile units. Food services at the expo were able to serve 18,000 customers at one time.

United States pavilion had a budget of $7.9 million under the theme "The Age of Discovery." 5 million people attended the U.S. pavilion.

Many pavilions remained after the expo as part of the Cartuja '93 project, a research and development center. The project got off to a slow start after the fair due to the European economy. A theme park, Cartuja Discovery Park, reopened on the fair site in June 1992 with the theme pavilions and other Expo entertainment features among the 70 hectares (173 acres). By 1997, the Monastery was still open for public visits. Various pavilions, including the Vatican, France, Belgium, Italy, Chile, Morocco, Cypress, New Zealand, Spain, Finland, Norway, Canada, Hungary, Austria, Puerto Rico, and Africa were integrated into this Science-Technology Zone. A small portion of the site had been converted to a University Center for Technology. The Discovery Pavilion, Navigation Pavilion, Magellan's Ship, and more were open. There was an children's theme park called "Isla Magica" around the lake.

Today, Cartuga '93 is one of the most important technology parks in southern Europe, employing nearly 15,000 people and hosting over four hundred firms. The project reuses 56 buildings from Expo '92. The Isla Magica theme park remains, open since 1997.

Those in Charge

Seville Commissioner General was law professor Manuel Olivencia, Expo 92 Corp. CEO wasAmbassador Emilio Cassinello. In 1992, Cassinello became Spain's Commissioner General. Jacinto Pellon was Managing Director of the Corporation.

Morocco Pavilion

Sources: Fair News; World's Fair Magazine; World's Fairs and the End of Progress by Alfred Heller; Fairs! Fairs! Fairs! USIA and U.S. Participation in World Fairs since WW2" by Martin J. Manning; Fair Representations, "Fair Legacies: Expo '92 and Cartuja '93" by John Findling; Wikipedia Commons; Les Fastes du Progress;; New York Times; Expo 2000 Internet Site; Report - Expo '92, Seville in Numbers, Bunchhouse BV .

Photo column top: Expo '92 Poster, Sevilla, 1992, Expo Authority. Bottom: Morocco Pavilion, 2011, now home to the Three Cultures Foundation in Cartuga '93. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

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