In 1978 Sam Bawlf proposed an exhibition to celebrate the centenary of Vancouver (1986) and at the same time to celebrate the arrival of the first passenger train on the west coast of Canada. The proposal was presented in June 1979 with the name "Transpo 86" and the following year the British Columbia governing bodies set up a corporation to promote and organise the exhibition.
The theme of Transportation was not chosen at random; Vancouver, with its port and its rail, air and land transportation, is a hub in these fields.
In November 1980, Vancouver won the bid to host the exhibition, which was officially named "Expo 86" by Ambassador and Commissioner General Patrick Reid in October 1981.
Although the construction of the exhibition was marred by five months of strikes, the Expo Centre opened one year before the opening of Expo 86 (May 2, 1985) to serve as the exhibition's reception and display building.
Despite its success, with over 22 million visitors, the exhibition ended with a deficit of $311,000,000 Canadian.