The Saudi capital Riyadh on Tuesday won the right to host the 2030 World Expo, beating rival bids from Italy and South Korea as well as overcoming objections from rights activists to hold another. global mega-event.
With a promise for an Expo “built by the world for the world”, the Saudi bid crushed the opposition after months of intense lobbying in the run-up to the Paris vote.
The World Expo – which traces its history back to the 1851 Great Exhibition in London and the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris that saw the construction of the Eiffel Tower – is a month-long showcase event that attracts millions of visitors aimed at respond to the specific challenges of the present time.
Hosting the Expo is of great importance for Saudi Arabia whose bid is led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, as he seeks to secure the world’s leading events to showcase the kingdom to the world.
The 2030 date is also very symbolic because it coincides with a significant milestone in MBS’s Vision 2030 program to diversify Saudi Arabia economically and culturally.
Hosting the Expo is regulated by the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), whose member states vote for the winner at its general assembly.
Needing only one round of voting and securing the required two-thirds majority of member states, Riyadh won 119 votes, South Korea’s Busan 29 and the Italian capital Rome 17, the BIE said.
The kingdom is set to host the 2034 football World Cup after emerging as the sole bidder for the event and is already hosting a host of motor-racing, golf and combat sports events.
But Rome and Seoul did not stop their efforts either.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol was in the French capital last week to make a final pitch for Busan’s bid, while Italy’s far-right Premier Giorgia Meloni pushed Rome’s cause in Paris and elsewhere. .
All sides are looking to spread some stardust, with South Korea bringing in former Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon to back its bid and Italian actor Sabrina Impacciatore as well as Davis Cup-winning tennis star Jannik Sinner via video.
For Saudi, football star Cristiano Ronaldo who currently plays for the Riyadh side of Al-Nassr, appeared in a video message. “Riyadh is a wonderful city and is ready to welcome you all.”
‘History of rights violations’
The Riyadh Expo is scheduled to take place from October 2030 to March 2031 on the theme “The Era of Change: Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow”.
But many rights groups have expressed dismay at Saudi Arabia’s winning of the bid, arguing that MBS’s flamboyant drive for reform hides a reality where dissidents are jailed and killings are rampant.
Concern over the Saudi rights record under MBS has often been symbolized by the 2018 killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Groups including the MENA Rights Group, Freedom House and Paris-based NGO Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM) last week wrote an open letter urging against Riyadh’s choice “given its horrific human rights situation”.
“By giving a global platform to a regime with a history of violating basic human rights and restricting freedoms, the international community risks sending a hidden message that such actions are acceptable,” like this.
Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s top executioners, executed 112 people between January and October this year, according to Amnesty, while rights groups accused it of suppressing dissent.
But French President Emmanuel Macron has already given Riyadh Paris support when he talks to the crown prince at the Elysee in July 2022, a move that has caused some anger in Italy, France’s neighbor and European Union partner. .
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in his final presentation pledged an “unwavering commitment to work with all countries to deliver an expo built by the world for the world.”
“As we work diligently to grow and transform our economy we believe that the development of the kingdom, the development of the region and the health of the global economy will progress in lockstep.”
The latest World Expo took place in 2020 in Dubai and the next World Expo will be in 2025 in Osaka, Japan, on the theme “Designing Future Society for Our Lives”.
Other bids for 2030 came from the Russian capital, Moscow, and the Ukrainian city of Odesa.
Russia withdrew its bid in May 2022, shortly after its invasion of Ukraine, while Odesa did not make the final shortlist of three announced in June.