Riyadh has won the bid to host Expo 2030, as Saudi Arabia swept the votes during a general assembly session in Paris of the organising committee for the world’s fair.
The Saudi city overcame competitors Rome and Busan, winning 119 votes from more than 160 member states of the Bureau International des Expositions in Paris on Tuesday.
The vote count marked the end of a more than two-year campaign by Saudi Arabia, Italy and South Korea that drew on the support of international athletes, pop stars and actors to popularise their message.
This will be the first Expo held in the country and the second for the Middle East and North Africa region after Expo 2020 was held in Dubai.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, was among the first to congratulate Saudi Arabia on being selected to host the world's fair.
"The joy of the Saudi people is our joy," said Sheikh Mohammed, state news agency Wam reported.
"Their success is our success, and their hosting of the world in 2030 is a win for us, for our Gulf, and for our region. Congratulations to Saudi Arabia."
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan paid tribute to the backing his nation had received when he thanked 130 countries for their support during his speech.
“I would like to acknowledge and thank the 130 countries that have already announced their support for the kingdom’s bid,” he said during Saudi Arabia's final presentation.
Prince Faisal said the vision of Riyadh Expo 2030 was to collaborate with all nations to build “an Expo built by the world for the world”, delivering on promises of opportunity, inclusivity, accessibility and sustainability.
He said Expo 2030 would come at a critical juncture as it would mark the intended deadline for many of the UN’s sustainable development goals as well as Saudi Arabia’s own Vision 2030, a master plan for the country launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
A video message from Cristiano Ronaldo was also played in which the football star, who plays for Al Nassr club, said: “Riyadh is an amazing city and is ready to welcome all of you.
“Vote for Riyadh – see you soon.”
Princess Haifa bint Abdulaziz Al Mogrin promised tangible action to advance the global development goals and work to address challenges in health, education, climate and environment.
“With your support, we will have the chance to create solutions and forge partnerships that advance human development,” she said.
“We will not wait for 2030; we will be with you from today until 2030.”
She spoke of the excitement in Saudi Arabia about hosting the Expo.
“Riyadh is at the heart of a young vibrant nation going through an unprecedented transformation,” she said.
“Our young people are leading the change. They cannot wait to welcome the world, to work together to realise humanity’s common future.”
The theme of Saudi Arabia’s bid is “The Era of Change: Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow”.
Riyadh would be ready to welcome 120 million visitors if the Saudi capital is chosen to host Expo 2030, officials said earlier this year.
The next Expo will be held in Osaka, Japan, after the success of the Dubai Expo that was held between October 2021 and March 2022 as the world emerged from the coronavirus pandemic.