With an eye on hosting the World Expo 2030 with a USD 8 billion bid, Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh has put in motion a mega makeover plan with construction work worth USD 400 billion underway to become a global mega city.
Riyadh is in contention for hosting the mega fair in 2030, as are Busan in South Korea, Odessa in Ukraine and Rome in Italy. The winner will be selected on the basis of voting by eligible countries and should be known by November this year.
Fahd Al-Rasheed, CEO of the Royal Commission of Riyadh City who was here for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023, said he is confident of winning the bid, but the makeover process is anyway underway as he wants Riyadh to become a global city in the true sense.
Speaking with a select group of journalists, Al-Rasheed said Riyadh can be a perfect host for the Expo 2030 with a USD 250 billion economy and being the 40th largest city in the world.
The city with a population of 8 million people has been growing fast and is witnessing huge infrastructure building activities.
Projects worth USD 400 billion are already underway here, which includes the world's largest metro network and a new airport and several new hotels and the USD 8 billion estimated cost for hosting the expo is nothing in comparison, he said.
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The new airport will have a capacity to handle 120 million passengers a year.
Al-Rasheed also said more than 50 per cent of the countries with voting rights have pledged support for Riyadh's bid.
Asked whether Iranian and Israeli pavilions would be there if Riyadh hosts the expo, Al-Rasheed said the geopolitics of the Middle East is complex but Saudi Arabia will invite all countries that would have relations with his country at that time.
While the Expo is estimated to attract 40 million people from all over the world, Riyadh is readying its infrastructure for about 100 million visitors per year by 2030, Al-Rasheed said.
Riyadh Expo, with a potential theme of 'Foresighted Tomorrow', is expected to create three million jobs across several business sectors including the addition of 120,000 hotel rooms by 2030.
"We are focusing on three major things in Riyadh -- preparing for a different tomorrow, climate action, and prosperity for all, and the reason that we are very passionate about these causes is that Saudi youth is ready, it wants action and Saudi students are working harder in schools and university to excel," he said.
Overall, there is an unprecedented amount of optimism and aspiration among the Saudi youth and the leadership does not want to fail them, he added.
When asked whether visitors to Riyadh Expo would have access to alcohol, Al-Rasheed said in a lighter vein that he considers Saudi Arabia as a detox tourist destination where a visitor is exposed to Saudi culture, history, and hospitality.
Al-Rasheed said his aspirations for the city do not hinge only on winning the bid as he is supercharged to transform Riyadh into a global city -- Expo or no Expo.
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