Riyadh is hoping that huge investment in its infrastructure - from public transport to business, education and the arts - will boost its bid for the World Expo 2030.
Riyadh City is one of the fastest-growing capitals in the world and a thriving metropolis. Part of Saudi Arabia's 2030 Vision masterplan for its transformation includes a bid backed by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City to host the World Expo 2030 with a budget of €7.2 billion. World Expos are global events that aim to find solutions to challenges to humanity and create a dynamic space to activate change.
Ibrahim bin Mohammed Al-Sultan, Minister of State, Member of the Council of Ministers, and Acting CEO at the Royal Commission for Riyadh City says Riyadh will put on an "unprecedented show."
"We are expecting when we build this expo that everybody will participate," he told Focus. "All the people will participate and they will show their value, their tradition and everything and share it with others."
Major development in infrastructure, education and the arts
The capital of Saudi Arabia is home to over 7.5 million residents and over 40% of them are expats who are witnessing big changes in the infrastructure of the Kingdom from business to the arts to education.
Downe House is Riyadh's first British International School for Girls and has a pledge to motivate and inspire. Adele O'Doherty from the UK is the Principal and told Focus that while being a truly international school, the need to celebrate local culture was imperative.
"It's really important to our families, no matter how much they want to want Saudi Arabia to be part of the global stage, that their culture is recognised and that the Arabic language stays alive," she explained.
Riyadh's art and culture scene is booming. Riyadh Season is one of the world's largest winter entertainment events covering art, music, theatre, food and sport. In addition, MDLBeast Soundstorm is the biggest musical festival in the Middle East attracting over 200 international and national artists.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's award-winning theatre production The Phantom of the Opera has recently opened in Riyadh much to the delight of theatre fans. Jasper Hope, Advisor at The Royal Commission for Riyadh City is part of the team that made this possible.
"I've been lucky enough to be involved on the kind of periphery with a number of Expos over the last 20 or 30 years, and each time you see these fantastic developments in cities. I think if Riyadh is able to stage the Expo in 2030, we'll see exactly the same here," he revealed.
"We'll see many, many more people with the opportunity to come and visit the city, and we'll see many, many more artists and productions and local productions start to develop as a result of that," Jasper added.
Saudi's business ecosystem: 'Everything can be done here and now'
The Riyadh Expo 2030 bid focuses on a main theme ‘The Era of Change: Together for a foresighted Tomorrow’ and it will include one pavilion for each country that takes part under the ‘One Nation, One Pavilion’ commitment.
The Collaborative Change Corner (C3) will be an area dedicated to driving innovation and youth supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Local entrepreneur Mansour Al Sanooni is Chairman and Founder of Mansour Al Sanooni Group. He credits the country's leadership for establishing a support network for the entrepreneurial business ecosystem in Saudi.
"The inter-ministerial ecosystem in Saudi, it's part of everything. You can have every aspect of that cycle by even finding investors, finding the right partners, getting into the business, and solving the problems. Everything can be done here and now,” he explained.
Sustainability at the heart of the bid
The Zero Carbon initiative of Saudi Expo 2030 takes centre stage of the bid and ambitiously aims to achieve carbon neutrality and reduce carbon emissions. It's also developing sustainable transport infrastructure, promoting a circular economy model, and fostering energy-efficient buildings.
The planned Expo site will have an area of six million square metres and expects to attract 40 million site visits. It will be a five-minute drive from the capital's airport and will be connected by the city’s new metro system.
There are a series of new sustainable developments being constructed at an unprecedented pace including Sports Boulevard – one of the world’s largest urban regeneration projects spanning more than 135km across Riyadh. This linear park will deliver athletic, cultural and entertainment experiences.
In addition, supporting a sustainable lifestyle is King Salman Park, an urban development in the heart of the city where 70% of the project represents green space. The park's developers believe that Expo 2030 Riyadh will showcase opportunities within the Saudi ecosystem.
"If we're able to bring the World Expo here in 2030, all eyes will be upon Riyadh and it'll be a great opportunity to introduce this market to people who don't know enough about it yet, but then will find great opportunity to come in and join us," explained George Tanasijevich, the CEO of King Salman Park Foundation.
The host country of the World Expo 2030 will be elected by BIE (Bureau International des Expositions) Member States at the 173rd General Assembly on 28 November 2023. The candidates include Italy (for Rome), the Republic of Korea (for Busan) and Saudi Arabia (for Riyadh).