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Riyadh skyline

Saudi Arabia set to host 2030 World Expo in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh has won the competition to host the 2030 World Expo, becoming the second Middle Eastern city to host the international event after Dubai in 2020.

The Riyadh Expo 2030 won the bid after 119 out of the 182 members of the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the World Expo supervisor, voted in its favour.

The news was announced yesterday and described by Riyadh Expo 2023 organisers as a "historic achievement" on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Other cities bidding to host the event, which takes place every five years, were Rome in Italy and Busan in South Korea. Ukraine had also put in a bid for Odesa, but this was ruled out due to the Russian invasion.

Event coincides with "crucial year" for Saudi Arabia

The Riyadh Expo 2030 will take place between 1 October 2030 and 31 March 2031 and will be curated under the title The Era of Change: Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow.

Details of the studio that will lead the masterplan are yet to be disclosed, but the event will be divided into three sub-themes called A Different Tomorrow, Climate Action and Prosperity for All.

Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman said the event will coincide with "a crucial year for the realization of the goals and plans outlined in Saudi Vision 2030" – a plan to diversify the country's economy and reduce its dependence on oil.

"The Kingdom's selection as the host of the World Expo 2030 underlines its influential and leading role, and the international confidence it enjoys," said the crown prince.

"Saudi Arabia has become an ideal destination for hosting major international events, including the esteemed World Expo," he continued.

"This Expo represents a remarkable opportunity to share with the world the lessons learned from our unprecedented journey of transformation."

Expo latest major event to be held in Saudi Arabia

The Riyadh Expo 2030 will be located a five to ten-minute drive away from King Khalid International Airport, which is being constructed by Foster + Partners. With six runways, it is set to become one of the world's largest airports.

It is the latest major event to be held in Saudi Arabia. Last year, it was revealed that the country would host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at its Trojena resort. Trojena forms will form part of Neom, a new region in Saudi Arabia being developed for the Saudi Vision 2030 plan under the direction of the crown prince.

Neom will contain numerous cities, resorts and other developments, such as The Line megacity, and is arguably the world's most controversial architecture project having been widely criticised on human rights grounds.

Last year, human rights organisation ALQST reported that three men were sentenced to death after being "forcibly evicted" from the Neom site.

The Riyadh Expo 2030 is also the latest in a string of international events to be held in the Persian Gulf, following the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar and the Dubai Expo 2020.

Dubai Expo 2020, which actually took place in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, included pavilions designed by architects including Foster + Partners, WOHA and Santiago Calatrava.

The upcoming international fair is Osaka Expo 2025, due to take place on the artificial island Yumeshima in Osaka Bay with a masterplan developed by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto.

Elsewhere in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian government is also developing plans to build a 400-metre-high cube-shaped skyscraper named Mukaab.

The photo is by Tom Ravenscroft.