Riyadh Expo 2030 — an unprecedented victory
Saudi Arabia won the bid for Riyadh to host Expo 2030 on Tuesday, Nov. 28, facing two strong competitors with longer experience in expo candidature and organization, namely Italy and South Korea. This victory was remarkable as it occurred in the first round and with a majority surpassing two-thirds of the member states in the Bureau International des Expositions convention. It is an unprecedented victory, as stated by BIE Secretary-General Dimitri Kerkentzes during the press conference held at the end of the General Assembly with the participation of Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, head of the Kingdom’s delegation to the General Assembly.
On this occasion, I extend my sincere congratulations to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. I also congratulate the Saudi people, and I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to all those who backed the Kingdom’s bid and declared their support for it, most prominently the friendly French Republic. The final statement issued at the conclusion of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to France in July 2022 affirmed France’s support for Riyadh’s bid to host Expo 2030, and France continued to confirm this support until the voting stage. A significant number of friendly countries at the highest level also declared their support for the bid.
It is worth noting that this great victory was the result of extensive efforts closely followed and personally overseen at all stages by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. These efforts focused on two fronts: Firstly, highlighting the capabilities of the Kingdom and the city of Riyadh to host the event and presenting a comprehensive and strong candidature dossier, also known as a bid book. This undoubtedly played a crucial role, as major countries have previously lost the competition due to the inefficiency of their dossiers or lack of confidence in the candidate city’s capabilities to host an expo that includes pavilions for all countries of the world, as well as in its ability to receive and accommodate tens of millions of expo visitors easily and smoothly over a six-month period.
In my capacity as the Kingdom’s representative to the BIE, I had the honor to accompany the technical team consisting of the secretary-general of the BIE and several representatives of member states with previous experience in the exhibition sector. The team visited Riyadh in March for a full week, during which it held numerous meetings, the most prominent of which were meetings with the crown prince and with various ministers involved in the expo. The team also participated in several workshops, conducted field visits to the proposed site, and closely examined Riyadh’s infrastructure and the huge projects taking place under Vision 2030, some of which are nearing completion in the areas of construction, public transportation, and social and tourism services. After its return, the team submitted a detailed and comprehensive report to the relevant committee at the BIE, which the BIE member states reviewed at the General Assembly last year and endorsed Riyadh’s eligibility and competence to host the expo.
As for the second front emphasized by the crown prince, it is commitment, as he affirmed to those responsible for communicating about the Kingdom’s candidature that the expo would truly be a global exhibition from the world and for the world. He emphasized the need to explain the theme he adopted for the expo, “Riyadh Expo 2030: The Era of Change: Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow.” It should be clarified that the expo will represent a collective journey with all countries of the world, serving their common interests in security and stability, enhancing values of cooperation and understanding, promoting sustainability and environmental reform, and confronting common challenges.
This is what everyone involved in the Kingdom’s campaign worked on and what I personally worked on in Paris for over two years with all the ambassadors and representatives of the member states in France and the General Secretariat of the BIE. It was also emphasized that sustainability and environmental care would form the backbone of the Saudi expo’s work if it won the bid and that it would be the first expo to seriously address emissions following the recommendations of environmental and climate change experts, which is also a common interest for all countries of the world without exception. The Kingdom has developed good experience in recent years with its environmental goals of transitioning to renewable and clean energy, and its expansive plan, the Saudi Green Initiative, was put into effect last year with the aim of planting 600 million trees across the Kingdom by 2030. In addition, the Middle East Green Initiative, a broader and more ambitious initiative, has received significant acclaim since its launch.
It was the result of extensive efforts closely followed and personally overseen at all stages by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Fahad M. Al-Ruwaily
All of this has undoubtedly contributed to building a clear conviction among the countries participating in voting for this exceptional result and winning the hosting rights for this extraordinary event. It should be noted that experts consider hosting the World Expo to be the most important event a country can stage compared to major international events, including the World Cup and the Olympics, taking into account its return and its economic, cultural, and tourism role for the host country. It stands out compared to other events, as it extends over six months and attracts millions of visitors from all nationalities, age groups, professions, and cultures. To provide context, it was proposed that Expo Riyadh 2030 be held from the beginning of October 2030 to the end of March 2031.
Without a doubt, the bid campaign was a diplomatic electoral campaign similar in its mechanisms and approach to any candidature for a significant international position or hosting. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had thus the most prominent role in leading the Kingdom’s campaign, and Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and his team at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs exerted extensive efforts to formulate the candidature plan and mobilize support. The minister held numerous meetings and communications with his counterparts in brotherly and friendly countries, and strengthened communication through the Kingdom’s embassies, covering all regions and cultures of the world. Other ministers also made similar efforts within their respective domains.
These efforts resulted in victory, demonstrating the strong support of Saudi diplomacy from the Kingdom’s leadership and its credibility and close ties with the rest of the world. Before the vote, it became clear that Saudi Arabia would achieve a significant victory, with a large number of countries, surpassing the two-thirds majority, openly expressing their intention to vote for the Kingdom. This culminated in the achievement of this great victory in the voting process that was conducted through a secret ballot. The convention insisted on making the voting process secret to ensure the utmost independence and impartiality for countries participating in the vote, avoiding any politicization and negative pressures associated with hosting the expo.
Now, after winning the elections and confirming the international community’s support for organizing Expo 2030, the actual phase of organizing the event begins. This starts with the registration phase, as the BIE regulations require that the expo be registered within a year of winning the hosting rights and completed five years before the scheduled expo date. The registration includes all the main elements of the expo, most notably the administrative, financial and legal aspects, the expo’s theme and its promotion plan, the cultural program and events taking place at the expo, the master plan of the site, the promotion and communication plan, and the commercial strategy for the expo. The member states review the registration dossier in coordination with the BIE General Secretariat; then it is examined by the Executive Committee and approved by the General Assembly to become formally registered. This marks the beginning of the phase of technical works and construction required to complete it.
As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman indicated in his congratulatory speech, hosting the event in Riyadh will represent an opportunity to offer an exceptional and unprecedented edition of the expo, with the aim of optimally investing in opportunities and offering solutions to the challenges facing our planet. Additionally, it aims to share with the world the lessons learned from the Kingdom’s unprecedented transformation journey with the realization of Saudi Vision 2030. As Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan indicated in the press conference held at the conclusion of the voting process in Paris, the Kingdom will seek to live up to the confidence of the countries that strongly supported Riyadh’s hosting of the expo, a matter in which the Kingdom has constantly demonstrated clear capabilities and credibility in successfully implementing its obligations and tasks, often exceeding the usual limits of what has been committed to.
I reiterate my congratulations to the Kingdom’s leadership and the Saudi people on this wonderful victory. I also reiterate my thanks to all friendly countries that provided their support for the Kingdom’s bid. My thanks extends to all colleagues, ambassadors, and representatives of friendly countries who provided support and assistance. I would also like to express my thanks and appreciation to BIE Secretary-General Dimitri Kerkentzes, and his team in the secretariat, who provided me and my colleagues with great assistance during the past two years in understanding the bureau’s regulations, the provisions of the convention, and the mechanisms for drafting documents related to the Kingdom’s dossier and its candidature in the required manner. I also thank my colleagues at the embassy and the members of the Saudi team in charge of the candidature campaign in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant authorities, including our competent young men and women, who worked with dedication and team spirit, and exerted extensive and commendable efforts that contributed to achieving this success.
We look forward to seeing you at Riyadh Expo 2030, an expo from the world and for the world. Let us foresee the world together.
• Fahad M. Al-Ruwaily is Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to France. Twitter: @Fahadalrwaily