‘Choosing Riyadh to host Expo 2030 would be smart and visionary,’ former French Culture Minister Jack Lang tells Arab News en Francais

Special ‘Choosing Riyadh to host Expo 2030 would be smart and visionary,’ former French Culture Minister Jack Lang tells Arab News en Francais
Jack Lang, a vocal supporter of cultural ties between France and Saudi Arabia, said staging the global event in Riyadh would have huge significance for the Arab region. (AFP)
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Updated 17 June 2023

‘Choosing Riyadh to host Expo 2030 would be smart and visionary,’ former French Culture Minister Jack Lang tells Arab News en Francais

‘Choosing Riyadh to host Expo 2030 would be smart and visionary,’ former French Culture Minister Jack Lang tells Arab News en Francais
  • Arab World Institute president praises “cultural revolution” underway in Saudi Arabia as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets President Macron in Paris
  • Says hosting World Expo in the Kingdom’s “extraordinary capital” would have “great symbolic and emblematic significance”

PARIS: Riyadh would be a “smart and visionary choice” to host the World Expo in 2030, Jack Lang, president of the Arab World Institute and France’s former minister of culture, has told Arab News on the sidelines of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Paris this week.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met French President Emanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace on Friday to discuss efforts to strengthen Saudi-French relations and cooperation.

“This is an extremely important visit, and I am delighted that His Highness, the crown prince, is present in Paris,” Lang told Arab News at his 8th-floor office overlooking the Seine in Paris. 

“It’s a moment of friendship between France and Saudi Arabia, an opportunity for the French president and the most senior official in Saudi Arabia to discuss a whole range of current issues concerning international affairs.”

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Elysee Palace in Paris on June 16, 2023. (AP)

Lang, who has long been a vocal supporter of close cultural ties between France and Saudi Arabia, said staging the global event in the Kingdom’s “extraordinary capital” would have huge symbolic significance for the Arab region and would highlight recent Saudi achievements. 

“Firstly, it is a great country, immense in its territory and population. It is a vibrant country with an active and creative youth, and women who are actively involved,” said Lang.

“I would say that the investment projects envisioned by the Saudi authorities are promising, promising for cultural development, promising for industrial and economic development.

“And beyond the present, Arabia has a history, a civilization, and powerful moments in the life of the world. I believe that dedicating the most important country in Arabia to this World Expo would have great symbolic and emblematic significance.

“Choosing Riyadh as the location for an upcoming World Expo would be a smart and visionary choice,” he added, calling the Kingdom “a great country of the future.”

Saudi Arabia has officially submitted its comprehensive application to host the World Expo 2030 in Riyadh. The event would take place from Oct. 1, 2030 to March 31, 2031, under the theme “The Era of Change: Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow.” 

Members of the Enquiry Mission of the Bureau International des Expositions met with top Saudi ministers and experts last March to evaluate Riyadh’s candidacy for Expo 2030. (Supplied)

Following on the heels of Dubai 2020 and Osaka 2025, Riyadh proposes to host the 2030 Expo at a six million square meter site just north of the city. The crown prince will present the Saudi candidacy during the International Bureau of Exhibitions (BIE) meeting in Paris early next week. 

On Monday, Saudi Arabia is set to hold an official reception in the French capital for 179 countries as part of the Kingdom’s bid to host the Expo. Voting will take place next November to choose the host city for this global event. 

A high-ranking Saudi delegation, members of the international diplomatic corps based in Paris, ambassadors of countries accredited to UNESCO, representatives of major participating entities and projects, representatives of member states to the BIE, and senior French officials in the government and private sectors will participate in the reception. 

Alongside Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Italy, and Ukraine have also applied to host the World Expo. Held since 1851, the expos are the world’s largest platform to showcase the latest achievements and technologies and celebrate the cultural values that unite humanity. 

Saudi Arabia submitted its bid for the World Expo 2030 in October last year, in a letter sent by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the BIE. 

Members of the Bureau International des Expositions Enquiry Mission met Saudi ministers to discuss the Kingdom’s bid to host the Expo 2030 world fair. (SPA File Photo)

According to the Saudi Press Agency, the letter stated: “We live in an era of change and we face an unprecedented need for humanity’s collective action.” 

If Saudi Arabia is selected to host the event, authorities plan to turn Riyadh and the rest of the country into a world-class venue for global culture, connectivity, and climate action.  

Lang is especially keen to see Riyadh succeed in its bid because he believes it could open the way for even greater cooperation with France, particularly on cultural and architectural projects.

“If Riyadh is chosen, our Saudi friends, who desire, as they know how, to create the most beautiful World Expo, will seek the collaboration of French creators, architects, and engineers who are especially talented and experienced in designing large-scale projects,” he said, citing their work in AlUla, Paris, and elsewhere. 


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“The Arab World Institute was designed by a young architect whom I had chosen, Jean Nouvel. And since then, he has become a star, also sought after by the crown prince in AlUla and Riyadh. Other strong and powerful personalities can contribute their talents, energy, and abilities to the organization of the World Expo.”

During his Paris visit, the crown prince will also lead the Saudi delegation at the Saudi-French Summit to be held on June 19, and the summit for a multinational New Global Financial Pact, also held in Paris on June 23- 24.

Macron aims to build “a new contract between northern and southern countries to tackle the dual challenge of climate change and global inequalities,” according to the summit website. 

The summit was announced last fall during the UN Climate Change Conference, COP27, in Egypt’s Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced the New Global Financial Pact summit to be held in Paris during the COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on November 7, 2022. (Photo by Ludovic Marin/ AFP/ File)

Security, defense, and issues related to the clean energy transition were likely high on the agenda during Friday’s meeting between the crown prince and Macron. However, cultural and educational ties were no doubt also discussed.

“I imagine they will also discuss the very active cultural cooperation that exists between our two countries, such as AlUla or even the project to create the largest contemporary art museum in the Arab world at the IMA,” said Lang, who has led the diplomatic-cultural institution for a decade. 

“These are some of the projects that we are working on hand in hand with the Saudi authorities, and we are pleased to do so.”

A curator explains as French Culture Minister Franck Riester (R), Jack Lang of the Institute of the Arab World (2nd R) and Royal Commission for AlUla CEO Amr Al-Madani (C), visit the exhibition “AlUla: Wonder of Arabia” at the l'Institut du monde arabe (IMA) in Paris on October 7, 2019. (AFP)

Lang praised the “cultural revolution” underway in Saudi Arabia, which has been marked by the opening of performance venues and the promotion of whole new creative industries — unheard of just a few short years ago before the launch of Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s social reform and economic diversification agenda. 

“We in France, at least I can say that for myself at the IMA, have great admiration for what is currently being undertaken in Saudi Arabia,” said Lang. 

“The cultural revolution that is truly underway is visible everywhere in Jeddah, Riyadh, and the rest of the country. Museums, cinema, music, all the arts are in motion, and the Saudi youth are happy to participate in this great cultural movement.”

The IMA hosted the Saudi Cinema Night last May and “the unique and grand exhibition on AlUla (in 2019), inaugurated by Prince Badr (Saudi minister of culture),” which was extended for several months due to its success, said Lang.

“It is true that the Arab World Institute and its president, from day one, believed in the sincerity of the plans launched by the crown prince.” 

Lang will soon host an Arab film festival in cooperation with the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah. He says he is proud to have fostered cultural ties between France and Saudi Arabia at a time when others had doubts about such partnerships.

“Everyone was skeptical everywhere in Europe and around the world,” said Lang. 

“And moreover, on two or three occasions, the crown prince, whom I met, especially in AlUla, said to me, ‘Thank you for being the first in the world to believe in the truthfulness of our projects.’”