News & Events

Expo 67, Take 2: Is Montreal ready to host another world’s fair?

January 17, 2017

John Meagher, Montreal Gazette

Published on: January 15, 2017 | Last Updated: January 15, 2017 8:13 PM EST

Ready for Expo 67: The Sequel?

Montreal enthralled the world 50 years ago at Expo 67, and now there is talk of hosting another world’s fair in 2025, thanks to an initiative put forth by two city councillors who would like to see Montreal rekindle some of the magic and promise of 1967.

City councillors Marvin Rotrand and Justine McIntyre will pitch the idea at a press conference Monday at Montreal city hall. They will formally propose a motion for the city council agenda on Jan. 23.

“It recommends that Montreal takes advantage of the fact that Toronto has decided not to bid,” explained Rotrand, “and it asks the executive committee to examine the feasibility study of a bid for 2025.

“And if that proves that it’s too short . . . because the bid has to be in by June 22, or that if it’s not feasible, we ask them to look at a possibility of 2027 or 2028, specialized Expos (which are ) much smaller, kind of like Expo 86 in Vancouver.”

Rotrand would not divulge any numbers on how much it would cost to throw another grandiose party and invite the world to gather in festival-friendly Montreal.

More than 50 million people visited Expo 67, considered the most successful world’s fair of the 20th century.

“All I can say is the last time, when we had the 1967 world’s fair, we didn’t get it at first,” Rotrand noted.

“Most people don’t know this; it wasn’t (supposed to be) Montreal, it was Moscow. And they dropped out in 1962. And at that time the government of Canada stepped in and actually were trying to prod Toronto to bid. But Toronto decided not to bid, so (Mayor Jean) Drapeau stepped in and Montreal got it.

“So anytime Toronto drops the ball, it’s obviously an opportunity for Montreal,” he said.

While Toronto has since supplanted Montreal as Canada’s largest city, Rotrand said Montreal does not play second fiddle to Hogtown on the international stage.

“On the contrary, I think it’s a big opportunity here,” Rotrand said.

He said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, busy with the city’s 375th anniversary celebrations this year, might support another international bash in eight years time.

“Put it this way, the city of Montreal, whether it’s Coderre or anyone else as mayor, has always been cosmopolitan and outward looking,” Rotrand said.

“Toronto might be the metropolis of Canada,” he added, “but sometimes it really feels hesitant or shy about opening up to the world.”

Like most Montrealers who attended Expo 67, Rotrand, who was 16 at the time, has fond memories of what some refer to as Montreal’s greatest summer (although the fair ran from April 27 till Oct. 29).

“Expo brought us a lot of good stuff,” Rotrand said, referring to the métro subway and eventual arrival of the Montreal Expos in 1969, Canada’s first Major League Baseball franchise.

But not everything went as planned at Expo 67. A special stand for the Stanley Cup had been arranged inside the Quebec pavilion at Expo 67, in anticipation of another championship by the Montreal Canadiens.

However, the Toronto Maple Leafs spoiled the Stanley Cup parade by upsetting the favoured Habs. The Leafs have not sipped from the Cup since.