PARIS: Riyadh will host the World Expo 2030 after defeating challenges from South Korea and Italy for the prestigious event.
The Saudi capital was picked by a majority of 119 out of 165 votes by the member states of the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions.
The secret ballot was carried out using electronic voting, and Riyadh was confirmed as the successor host to Osaka in 2025.
During the BIE event in the French capital, candidates presented their final Expo progress reports to member states and government-appointed delegates in an 11th-hour attempt to win votes.
The event is expected to represent the culmination of Vision 2030 and showcase the Kingdom’s achievements, with a particular focus on hospitality, tourism, and culture.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman used a visit to Paris in June to showcase the Kingdom’s bid for the Expo, attending an exhibition held by the Royal Commission for the City of Riyadh that showcased Saudi Arabia’s rich heritage and cultural depth.
The bid began to draw support from high-profile French backers, with influential French senator Natalie Goulet saying that holding the expo in the Saudi capital would be “the culmination of Vision 2030.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said: “I would like to thank the 130 countries that have already announced their support for the Kingdom’s bid. Distinguished dignitaries, you have all acted as indispensable partners providing insight, feedback, and support throughout the Kingdom’s campaign.”
He reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s “unwavering commitment to collaborate with all nations to deliver an Expo built by the world for the world and to find new pathways for collective action and collaboration.”
The foreign minister said the Kingdom will “provide facilities packages of $348 million to a pool of 100 eligible countries.”
Arab News backed the Expo bid through a #WhyRiyadh campaign launched on Sept. 23 – the Saudi National Day.
Public figures from across various industries backed the campaign, including Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubair, Riyadh Mayor Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz bin Ayyaf, and Frédéric Bedin, president of public relations agency Hopscotch.
Other high-profile supporters included the secretary-general of Alwaleed Philanthropy and UN Human Settlements Program’s Goodwill Ambassador, Princess Lamia bint Majed, the vice president of the Saudi Arabia Boxing Federation Rasha Al-Khamism, and Rob Sobhani, adjunct professor at Georgetown University.
Nonetheless, the campaign had started earlier, with the announcement of Paris’s support of Riyadh Expo 2030, reiterated during the crown prince’s visit to the French capital in June 2023, and his participation in the first Summit for Financial pact.
Commenting on the achievement, Princess Haifa Al-Mogrin, the Kingdom’s ambassador to UNESCO, said: “Riyadh Expo 2030 will be a global platform that accelerates progress, toward the most urgent challenges, health and education, climate and the environment, trade and investment, peace and prosperity for all.”
Why Riyadh? The city’s vibrant energy, with several megaprojects in progress, is placing sustainability and quality of life at the heart of every discussion.
The Expo 2030 location addresses these themes and is set to offer sustainable solutions for the cities of tomorrow, including clean mobility and renewable energy.
Creating green neighborhoods, with the key enablers being water and trees while reinstating the red sands desert that Riyadh is famous for, is an important example of how to build the “city of the future” while preserving heritage.
Saudi Arabia is raising the sustainability bar through its Green Riyadh Program, but it also aims to create connections, encourage people to use public transport, and increase the percentage of green space to improve air quality.
The program also seeks to increase green coverage from 1.5 percent to 9.1 percent, enhancing quality of life by creating open areas to improve public health, reduce energy consumption, and ultimately make Riyadh one of the 100 best livable cities in the world.
Seventy percent of the Saudi population is under the age of 30, and with a qualified labor force across industries fueling the race to 2030, there is excitement, energy, and enthusiasm in the first Arab capital to host the world event.
“Diriyah will be very famous by 2030, the city of Riyadh will be unrecognizable,” Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of the Diriyah Group, told Arab News during an event leading up to the Expo 2030 announcement.
“What Singapore did in 60 years, what the Emiratis did just in tourism in 30 years, the crown prince wants to accomplish that in 15 years,” he added.
In a symposium held in Paris earlier in November, the Royal Commission’s directors of landscape architecture, Lamia Al-Muhanna, and Nouf Al-Moneef, unveiled a color-coded map with planned pavilions, performance venues, support facilities, and an exhibition village.
Princess Haifa bint Mohammed Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of tourism, used the event to say: “Choosing Saudi, choosing Riyadh, is choosing the world.”
Delivering Expo 2030 will mean massive infrastructure developments in the Saudi capital, including an increase in hotel capacity by 70,000 new rooms.
The venue will be accessible via a newly developed metro linking Expo City to a reconstructed King Salman Airport, set to be one of the largest aviation hubs in the world at 57 million sq. meters.
The Kingdom’s new airline, Riyadh Air, will further increase the capital’s accessibility, with flights to 100 countries by 2025.
“As host, we will create a world-class site expo to enable you to build pavilions and experiences in a way that matches your national priorities and aspirations,” said Ghida Al-Shibl, a member of the Riyadh Expo 2030 team.
She said: “By Feb 2028, participant parcel and expo village will be open. We will fast-track all necessary requirements including imports, visas, and regulations.”
Al-Shibl said the Kingdom will launch a participant lab in 2025 that will run through 2030 as a 24/7 concierge service to support “your move, and a variety of housing options for teams and families, in addition to access to excellent healthcare and education and banking services.”