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Now the frosting on Australia's Bicentennial cake: Expo 88.

Now the frosting on Australia's Bicentennial cake: Expo 88

Expo is the world as it ought to be. Traffic is replaced by a monorail purring overhead. Nations who are enemies outside the gate live as neighbors on flower-lined streets. Fairgoers caught up in the fantasy hate to think that in a few months it will all come crashing down.

The newest expo, last for the '80s, is taking shape across the Brisbane River from the downtown of Queensland's capital. World Expo 88 runs through the Australian winter, from April 30 to October 30.

Fair organizers asked exhibitors to look at how people in this technological age spend their leisure time. No other country takes its time off more seriously than Australia, and no region of this nation is more popular for a winter vacation than semitropical Queensland.

We've visited the site twice. The last time was in the chaos of February, as work in town and at the site proceeded full tilt seven days a week to make everything ready on time for Queen Elizabeth, who will wield the royal scissors.

Expo probably is not reason enough for a long journey, but Americans' current fascination with the land of Paul Hogan, the national refurbishing and special events for the country's bicentennial, and lower air fares during the fair period may tempt some Westerners.

Too soon to visit another expo?

Even with Vancouver's Expo just an 18-month-old memory, it's not too soon if you're interested in Australia and how other exhibitors regard it. Trade and tourism are twin lures for the 50-plus exhibitors. The Swiss, for example, will erect a snowy ski slope to woo skiers from this palmy region. A computer in the U.S. Pavilion will give schedules of U.S. teams for visitors planning American trips.

Japan's an important trade partner, and hopes its massive presence at Expo will help erase memories that might remain from World War II. Its Technoplaza and national pavilion cost $25 million, the most expensive price tag here (all amounts are in U.S. dollars). One Japanese exhibitor will tip visitors toward the ceiling for a 3-D, 16-laser-disk show about the world of the forest. The national exhibit will counter with a Superman-like flight across Japan and Australia.

The South Pacific islands, including New Zealand, are going all out: Australia supplies most of their visitors. The Pacific Lagoon combines the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Western Samoa; all have lashed together traditional thatch-and-wood structures (with an occasional nail to meet local codes). The carpenters double as dancers, and a different nationality hits the stage for half an hour each hour during daytime.

New Zealand will be a hit. Its $12 million pavilion, prorated, would cost each New Zealander around $4. One stop leads into a traditional-looking sheep shed. The shed turns into a theater for a video suggested by New Zealand children and shot mostly from knee height to present the world from their vantage. Just to be sure that the audience is paying attention, the shed's floor tips up and down. Also expect to see a glowworm grotto, waterfalls inside and outside, steam fumaroles, realistic giant kauri trees with games inside the trunks, and a hunting lodge dining room. If this were North America or Europe, the superpowers would likely be matching space shots and GNPs. Instead, they'll try to persuade Aussies that they"re as sports-crazed and madcap as the hosts.

The U.S. occupies the largest pavilion. A sports court in front makes its theme clear. Holding everything from hackysack to Bart Connor on the parallel bars, it should be a great hit with the sports-addicted locals. (On a recent summer Sunday, Brisbane TV pages listed four channels, with start-to-finish coverage of basketball, bowls, cricket, figure skating, golf, soccer, surfing, and wrestling.)

Inside, computers will critique your golf swing, answer any question about the Kentucky Derby, and analyze your best pitch. Leading sports medicine practitioners will be on hand.

The restaurant's daily regional specials will be served with a great view of activities on the river. A separate entrance leads to three Western states. Alaska, a primary producer with small population but a place of high technology, makes a case for its similarily to Australia. California takes viewers around the state via big-screen video to learn about sports and recreation destinations. Hawaii is also represented: some 60 percent of Australians coming to the U.S. stop here.

Soviet plans were under wraps when we visited, but its drawings show spaces for videos, fashion shows, and exhibits about Soviet life. Some of its Vancouver displays were rumored to be traveling to Brisbane. The Troika Restaurant will serve traditional dishes.

Visiting the site: monorail, polyester sails for shade and rain

The venue will look familiar to Vancouver fairgoers. A monorail circles the site (under 100 acres, about half the size of Vancouver's). The number of international participants is about the same. Both cities chose neglected industrial waterfronts close to downtown. Vancouver clear-cut its site; Brisbane left four 19th-century buildings to be incorporated into the fair. After Expo 88 closes in October, 68 acres will be sold to help retire the $315 million debt and perhaps make this the first-ever self-sustaining expo. Both Vancouver's and Brisbane's were sanctioned by the International Bureau of Expositions in Paris. Both are considered specialized expos: narrower themes and standardized pavilions. (At universal expos such as Osaka's and the planned 1992 Age of Discovery in Seville, exhibitors provide their own structures.)

Eight landmark PVC-coated polyester sails swoop 165 feet above the flat site. They solve shade and rain problems for this semitropical location.

A 60-column forest. Some $6.3 million has been set aside to celebrate plants of this benign climate. An epiphyte "forest" of 60 columns--festooned with rain-forest plants such as bromeliads and Cooktown orchids softened by mists and fog--will be lighted at night with images projected onto the underside of the sails.

Birds' bright plumage will flash among the foliage. Nine-foot globes containing plants will hang overhead. To brighten walkways, 18 flower murals with 100,000 separate plants will be changed monthly.

Along the river boardwalk, local tucker will be served in Queenslanders (traditional veranda-fronted, corrugated-metal houses on stilts). Macadamias, mangoes, pineapples, pawpaws (papayas), and avocados growing here will find their way onto diners' plates.

Twice-daily floats. Art goes on parade daily at 11:30 and 6:30. The half-hour parade combines 6 automated floats and 30 circus and dance performers and bands, including more than 60 from the United States. Food is on the mind of paradegoers and parade givers: ants are carrying off cupcakes, sandwich rolls, watermelons, and lamingtons (white cake frosted with chocolates, topped with co-conut, enjoyed mainly by ants, Aussies, and an ant-eating echidna who is in pursuit). A cabbage-headed garden pest lady strolls by with slug and snail on leash.

You'll never be far from entertainment anywhere on the site. The biggest spot? River Stage can hold a crowd of 10,000.

In the evening, lights and circuitry take over with 11 floats and more pageantry. Expo concludes with 10 o'clock fireworks launched from the river.

Outside. Nearly half the site is outside the mile-long monorail loop. To the north, World Expo on Stage has booked 85 attractions into the Queensland Performing Arts Complex's two 2,000-seat theaters. A third--a small-space experimental theater --offers works by and about Australians. For information, write to Ticket Applications, GPO, Box 50, Brisbane 4001, Queensland.

Her Majesty will be in familiar surroundings at the Queensland Art Gallery's exhibit of master drawings on loan from Windsor Castle. To the west, rides and games at the giant World Expo Park will remain open after expo.

To the south, the 3-acre Queensland Maritime Museum's centerpiece is a historic dry dock where a river-class frigate, Diamantina, is being restored; you can board to view the work in progress. The steam tug Forceful will depart from here for 1 1/2-hour tours of the river. With picnic tables away from the hubbub, this should be a quiet retreat.

Admission to Expo 88 costs $18 for one day, $40 for three days. Rides and performances cost extra.

Photo: From a thousand feet above Expo, monorail is a thread among giant parasols. Site faces downtown for 3/4 mile along banks of Brisbane River medndering out to Moreton Bay. Close-up shows monorail running under tension-hung sunshades

Photo: Tilting stilters, two of a hundred lifelike statues on site, could learn from steady Fijians lashing poles to meeting house

Photo: "True Love" gets touch of lip gloss. Illuminated from inside, fiberglass float, with porthole for driver, cost over $100,000. Sun above awaits implant of second reflective eye. Both will be in nightly parade

Photo: Face-painted Huli girl from Papua New Guinea and shell- and coral-decorated Solomon Islander hail from two South Pacific nations offering dances, carving, traditional buildings

Photo: Shearing shed in New Zealand Pavilion has sheep seats up front; lights dim and sheep in video stare out at sheepish audience

Photo: "You are what you eat," inspired by Arcimboldo's 16th-century allegorical art, displays balanced diet at noon parade

Photo: Local specialties: chef Ron Kane at Expo House assembles fruit and seafood: red emperor fish at left, mud crab at right, crayfish and shrimp in front. Below, pride of Queensland is a 16-ounce T-bone cooked rare, served with baked potato, tomato

Photo: Sunsails soar above hull at maritime museum and 3,000-seat aquacade

Photo: Other distinctive shapes punctuating the skyline include Chris Beecroft's shocking pink sculpture, Showdown, and chevroned silo above a thresher at Primary Industries Pavilion

Photo: Rocky Horror live performance attracts dressed-to-kill crowd to performing arts complex shown from river at right. Expo takes over halls for six-month run of 350 performances, from the Comedie Francaise to the World Drum Festival
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Apr 1, 1988
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