In a significant victory for Saudi Arabia, Riyadh has been chosen to host the Expo 2030 world’s fair, surpassing contenders South Korea’s Busan and Italy’s Rome for the prestigious event, announced by the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE).
Amidst the competition, Riyadh emerged victoriously with 119 votes, while Busan received 29 and Rome 17 from a total of 182 BIE members. The win in the first round required Saudi Arabia to secure two-thirds of the votes.
Giampiero Massolo, the head of the Italian Expo bid, expressed surprise at the overwhelming result, citing concerns about potential influence over the decision. “It is no longer about the merits but about transactions,” Massolo stated, reflecting on the outcome and its unforeseen scale.
Saudi Arabia’s proactive approach in securing the bid for Expo 2030 aligns with its ambitions. With future plans for hosting the 2034 World Cup and potentially an Olympics bid, Riyadh presented a compelling proposal for the event slated from October 2030 to March 2031.
Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud highlighted their global engagement strategy, stating, “We engaged our counterparts in a very, very active way to understand what they expected, what they were looking for, and what we should deliver.”
However, critics suggested that the hosting bid aims to enhance Saudi Arabia’s global reputation following the controversial 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Despite criticisms, the win marks a significant milestone for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030, aiming to diversify the country’s economy away from oil dependency.
The Expo 2030 hosting rights provide Riyadh a unique opportunity to showcase its aspirations and further its global engagement initiatives.