The 1958 expo, a world event for the post-war period

The 1958 World's Fair was the first exhibition of such a large size to be organised since the end of the Second World War. It was held in Brussels, which was soon to become the capital of Europe. For 6 months, from April 17th to October 19th in 1958, the city received in excess of 42 million visitors, all looking for new discoveries and various entertaining novelties.

The entire world converges on Brussels

By the end of the 1950s, the whole world was looking towards Brussels and its Atomium, the emblematic monument of the event which would go on to become the very symbol of the capital city. The 1958 World's Fair was inaugurated by King Baudouin and it has since become an object of real pride for the inhabitants of the flat country.

A total of 51 nations planted their flags on the Heysel plateau during the expo. The United States and the USSR were a part of it, facing each other in a totally peaceful manner. The world's great powers rubbed shoulders with lesser-known countries, such as Morocco, Thailand, Brazil, Japan, and even the Vatican.

A section of the exhibtion, which occupied no less than nine pavilions, was specifically dedicated to the Belgian Congo. Even though independence was to be announced only two years later, Belgium as a whole was still convinced that its large colony would go on to remain in its possession indefinitely. On the other hand, many future independent nations that still remained under the yoke of colonisation were not represented at the 1958 World's Fair at all.

Belgium brought to the fore

The host country occupied about half of the Heysel site; some 80 pavilions were dedicated to it alone. The public could thus find out about Belgian expertise, through the numerous companies that were present. These covered many sectors, from sciences to Belgian gastronomy and from fashion to sport and culture. An exceptionally novel monument was also on show to visitors, the Atomium. It was a representation of an immense iron atom and constituted a flagship of civil engineering.

The exhibition also presented an opportunity for visitors to discover key achievements such as Sputnik, the first Soviet artificial satellite. Furthermore, computers, which were then only in their infancy, were on show just as nuclear technology was. For the first time, visitors could taste innovations that wiould soon be a part of their daily lives, such as soft ice cream and coca-cola.

The statistics to do with the 1958 World's Fair are also monumental: 42 million visitors came, 60 million hours of work were devoted to its construction, 1.7 million cars parked in its car parks, a record of 715,000 visitors came in a single day and 52,000 glasses of beer sold in one day. In addition, there were eight births in the course of the exhibition and five deaths. Adults could access all these wonders for a very modest entry fee of only 30 Belgian francs.

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