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World Expos ("World Fairs")

Bureau International des Expositions

Last modified: 2011-04-01 by zoltán horváth
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[Bureau International des Expositions]
image by Zoltan Horvath, 5 July 2010

See also:

Bureau International des Exposition flag

The new flag, based on the organization's website has a smaller logo that previously, with a shining effect, and the text Bureau International des Expositions" written around the hoist side, in green (B, I, Expo) and blue (remaining letters).
Zoltan Horvath
, 5 July 2010

Earlier flag

[Bureau International des Expositions]
image by Urso S. A. Chappell, 3 January 2002

The BIE, the Bureau International des Expositions, is the international body that sanctions international expositions (world's fairs). It consists of the BIE logo in blue on a white field. The logo was created by a Japanese student in 1969. It is flown at all sanctioned world's fairs. I do not know if there is an official height-to-width ratio.
Urso S. A. Chappell, 3 January 2002

The world's fair flag was created for Expo'70 in Osaka. It is white with the BIE symbol in the middle. At most closing ceremonies these days it is pass to the next host city something like the Olympic flag. Many individual expos have had their own flags as well - for the most part these have also been white with the each expo's symbol in the middle. The earliest flag 
I've seen is from New York 1939.
Mike Kuna
, 25 May 2002

About the World Expos

World's Fairs originated in the French tradition of national exhibitions, a tradition that culminated with the French Industrial Exposition of 1844 held in Paris. It was soon followed by other national exhibitions in continental Europe, and finally came to London where the first real international exhibition was held on May 1 of 1851. Since their inception in 1851, the character of world expositions has evolved. Three eras can be distinguished: the era of
industrialization, the era of cultural exchange, and the era of nation branding.

The BIE (Bureau International des Expositions) which organizes the World's Fairs was established by an international convention signed in Paris on 22 November 1928, with the following goals:
1. to oversee the calendar, the bidding, the selection and the organization of World Expositions; and
2. to establish a regulatory framework under which Expo organizers and participants may work together under the best conditions.

The 1928 Convention has been modified several times by the following legal instruments:
- Protocol of May 10, 1948
- Protocol of November 16, 1966
- Protocol/Amendment of November 30, 1972
- Amendment of June 24, 1982
- Amendment of May 31, 1988

The BIE has an official website, here: They seem to have a new flag, displayed on their home ( which is the same white horizontal flag with the BIE logo in the middle, and on the left the name of the organization in a semi circle around the logo, with the starting letters in green ("B", "I", "E"), in script-font style. The new logo is here on their official website: The BIE main offices are located in Paris.

"The 1928 Paris Convention, which created the BIE and established the rights and responsibilities of the organizers and participants of an Expo, applies to all international exhibitions held by governments except:
- Exhibitions lasting less than three weeks
- Fine arts exhibitions
- Exhibitions of an essentially commercial nature
- The BIE today categorizes these international exhibitions into two main types: World Expos and International/Specialized Expos.
The two types of Expos differ principally in the size of the Expo site, the duration of the event, and the scope of the theme" (see chart below:

Since 1960, the BIE also grants recognition to the International Horticultural Exhibitions (“A1 International Exhibitions”) approved by the AIPH (International Association of Horticultural Producers). The AIPH background history is as follows: "In 1948 the Association of Swiss Horticulture (‘Verband Schweizerischer Gärtnermeister’) celebrated its 50th anniversary. The well-known representatives of the growers’ associations of the other countries of Western Europe were invited to Zürich. In a meeting the decision was taken to recreate the international association ‘Union Horticole Professionelle Internationale’ which was established in 1909 but became extinct during the period of wars and economic crashes. The new organization was named: ‘Association Internationale des Producteurs de l’Horticulture’ (AIPH). The following countries were among the founders: Switzerland, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Hungary, and Sweden. At a later stage Denmark and Italy joined, but Hungary and the United Kingdom stepped back, Hungary because it was absorbed into the Eastern Block, the United Kingdom probably because it did not feel able to reap immediate advantages from the international co-operation. In the sixties of the former century many new members joined AIPH as can be seen in the list.

The BIE also recognizes La Triennale di Milano (Milan Triennial Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Modern Architecture), on the grounds of historical precedence, provided that it retains its original features.
The Milan Triennal was first organized as a Biennial, starting in 1923 as part of the I Biennale delle arti decorative) (I Biennal of Decorative Art) set up by the ISIA (Istituto Superiore di Industrie Artistiche) (Superior Institute of Artistic Industrie) in Monza. The ISIA was founded one year before, in 1922.

Milan Triennial Exhibitions recognized by the BIE took place in: 1933, 1936, 1940, 1947, 1951, 1954, 1957, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1988, 1991, and 1996.

So in total, the BIE recognises four types of events:
1) World Expos
2) International Expos
3) International Horticultural Exhibitions approved by the AIPH (International Association of Horticultural Producers).
4) Milan Triennial Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Modern Architecture

"The World Expo – one of the world’s oldest and largest international events – takes place every five years and lasts for six months. Participants include states, international organizations, civil society groups, corporations, and citizens. The size of the site is unlimited and participants may build their own pavilions. A World Expo is an "International Registered Exhibition", is further characterized by the broad scope of the chosen theme, which must be of universal concern to all of humanity." Source:

An International Expo is an "International Recognized Expo", held between two World Expos and its duration is three months. Participants include states, international organizations, civil society groups, corporations, and citizens. The size of the site is limited to 25 hectares and the Expo organizers provide the pavilions, which are then customized by the participants. The theme of the International Expo must represent, as with the World Expo, a global concern but it must be more specialized in its scope. Source:

Today, 157 countries are member states of the BIE. Membership to the BIE is open to any Government by accession to the 1928 Paris Convention on International Exhibitions:
“This Convention shall be open for accession by any State which is a member of the United Nations, or any State which is not a member of the United Nations but which is a Party to the Statute of the International Course of Justice or any State which is a member of one of the specialised agencies of the United Nations or the International Atomic Energy Agency and also by any State whose application for accession is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Contracting Parties which have the right to vote in the General Assembly of the Bureau. Instruments of accession shall be deposited with the Government of the French Republic and shall become effective on the date they are so deposited.”

1928 Paris Convention, Article 35
The BIE member’s states take part in all of the organization’s deliberations and engage in the development of Expo policies and principles. Member states also participate from the outset in discussions with the Expo organizers, especially as it pertains to their participation.

For the complete list of country members list please see:

For additional historical information please see:
BIE History
Historical Expos recognised by the BIE:
List of World Expos (Sanctioned by the BIE first in 1851 in London, United Kingdom)
List of World Fairs (Not sanctioned by the BIE, first in 1756 in London, United Kingdom)
AIPH (Association Internationale des Producteurs de l’Horticulture) (International Association of Horticultural Producers) (official website)
Full List of Expositions and Exhibitions recognised by the AIPH:
Milan Triennale (official website)
List of Triennale di Milano:
ISIA (official website)
Esteban Rivera, 7 June 2010

Flags of Individual World's Fairs

Many of the World's Fairs appear to have developed unique flags for the event.  We have tried to collect links to these flags below.  The list of World's Fairs is based on one in the World Almanac, augmented by the Swedish Nationalencyklopedin (Vol. 20, VITRY-ÖÄ, Bokförlaget Bra Böcker, Höganäs 1996, p. 127).  Some flags are only known (so far) by description - these are described below.

mid 1800's, New York (Bryant Park)?
1851, London (Crystal Palace) - the "first world fair"
1853, New York
1853, Dublin
1855, Paris
1862, London
1867, Paris
1873, Vienna
1874, Dublin
1876, Philadelphia
1878, Paris
1884, New Orleans
1885, Antwerp
1886, London
1888, Glasgow
1888, Melbourne
1889, Paris
1893, Chicago
1894, San Francisco
1895, Atlanta
1897, Brussels
1900, Paris
1901, Buffalo
1904, Saint Louis
1905, Liège, Portland (Oregon)
1906, Milan
1907, Dublin
1907, Hampton Roads, USA
1909, Seattle
1910, Brussels
1911, Turin
1913, Gent
1915, San Francisco
1915-16, San Diego
1922-23, Rio de Janeiro
1924-25, London (Wembley)
1925-26, Paris
1926, Philadelphia
1929 Exposición Iberoamericana at Seville and Exposición Universal at Barcelona
1930, Seville, Antwerp, Liège
1931, Paris
1933-34, Chicago
1935, Brussels
1937, Paris.  The modern Breton flag (Gwenn-ha-Du) made one of its first public appearances during the 1937 Fair.
1939-40, New York
1939-40, San Francisco
1958, Brussels
1962, Seattle
1964-65, New York, blue and orange background with symbol
1967, Montreal, sky blue with symbol in white
1968, San Antonio
1970, Osaka, white with symbol in red or blue
1974, Spokane, white with symbol
1975, Okinawa, white with symbol in blue
1982, Knoxville, white with symbol in red
1984, New Orleans, white with symbol in blue
1985, Tsukuba, white with symbol in blue
1986, Vancouver, sky blue with symbol in white
1988, Brisbane, white with symbol
1992, Seville, white with symbol
1992, Genoa
1993, Taejon, white with symbol
1998, Lisbon, white with symbol
2000, Hannover, there must have been about 5 or 6 different versions - for example green background with symbol in purple
2004, Seine-Saint-Denis, France
2004, Seto, Japan
2010, Shanghai, China
2012, Yeosu, South Korea
2015, Milan, Italy