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High stakes and glitz mark vote for 2030 World Expo host

PARIS (AP) — In a high-profile showdown, Rome, Busan, and Riyadh are the top contenders as the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) prepares to vote on Tuesday in Paris for the host city of the 2030 World Expo. With the stakes high, each city has escalated its campaign efforts, showcasing unique visions and ambitious promises to secure the rights to this globally prestigious event.

Rome has enlisted actor Russell Crowe, who appeared in a promotional video echoing his “Gladiator” persona, to underscore the city’s readiness for the Expo. The Rome campaign also hosted BIE delegates at Paris’ luxurious Plaza Athénée hotel, complete with a Michelin-starred meal and gifts of extra virgin olive oil.

Rome’s bid also includes plans for the world’s largest urban solar park and a green corridor connecting the Expo site to historic landmarks like the Appia Antica (Appian Way), one of the oldest and most important roads of the Roman Empire.

South Korea’s Busan has brought in cultural heavyweights like “Gangnam Style” rapper Psy and K-pop supergroup BTS to bolster its bid. The city is positioning itself for a high-tech Expo, emphasising its capabilities in AI and 6G technology with the aim of attracting millions of visitors and spurring job creation.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh has mounted a significant marketing campaign, featuring a “Riyadh 2030” exhibit near the Eiffel Tower and extensive advertising across Paris. The Saudi bid, seeking to diversify the kingdom’s economy and boost its international stature, has received support from French President Emmanuel Macron, as indicated in a July statement from the Élysée Palace.

The World Expo has a storied history of bringing together nations to showcase technological innovations and cultural achievements. Since the inaugural event in 1851, Expos have been platforms for introducing groundbreaking inventions such as the light bulb, the Ferris wheel and the Eiffel Tower itself, which was built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle.

These events have evolved to not only be celebrations of human ingenuity but also opportunities for host cities to catalyse economic growth and global recognition.

With the world’s attention turned to Paris, the upcoming vote will set the stage for the next chapter in the rich legacy of the World Expos. The next Expo is scheduled to be held in Osaka in 2025.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan arrives at the general assembly of the BIE , on June 20 in Paris. PHOTO: AP