In 1981, Manuel de Prado y Colon de Carvajal (a descendant of Christopher Columbus and president of the Comision Nacional para la Celebracion del quinto Centenario del Descubrimento de America) and those close to the royal family came up with the idea of a universal exhibition to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America.
His Majesty Juan Carlos approved the idea of an exhibition in Seville and informed the BIE of the theme chosen: "The birth of a new world".
But the United States had already asked the BIE for an exhibition to be held in Chicago to celebrate the arrival of Christopher Columbus in America.
The Bureau International des Expositions decided to hold the exhibition in both cities in a joint celebration, explaining that it would underline the strong ties between the two countries. The theme of the exhibition was "The Age of Discovery".
But in 1987, the city of Chicago cancelled its entry due to conflicts between the city's Democratic mayor and the governor of Illinois, and because of environmental protests against the draining of Lake Michigan.
The exhibition area (168 ha) is twice as large as originally planned.
The exhibition was characterised by bad luck: just before the opening, the discovery pavilion caught fire and the launching of a copy of the Victoria resulted in the sinking of the ship.
The event attracted 108 states, 17 autonomous communities, 23 international organisations and 7 companies with their own pavilion.