The country, which is also expected to host the World Cup in 2034, claims the latest in a string of victories for Gulf states at international events.

The World Expo 2030 will be held in Riyadh, marking another hosting victory for a Gulf country after Qatar hosted the World Cup last year.

South Korea’s Busan and Italy’s Rome were also in the running to host the World’s Fair, a five-year event that attracts millions of visitors and billions of dollars in investment.

Saudi Arabia’s capital won 119 votes, Busan 29 and Rome 17, results from 182 members of the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) showed on Tuesday. Saudi Arabia needed two-thirds of the vote to win in the first round.

The Italian participants expressed sharp criticism of the result.

“This huge result for Saudi Arabia was unexpected on this scale,” Giampiero Massolo, head of Italy’s Expo bid, told reporters. “It’s no longer about performance, but about transactions.”

“Yesterday was the football championship. The Olympics will be held tomorrow,” he added.

Saudi Arabia is the sole candidate to host the 2034 World Cup and is also planning an Olympic bid.

Members of the Saudi delegation celebrate as the BIE announces the vote on November 28, 2023 in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris, France [Aurelien Morissard/AP Photo]

Riyadh had tasked football star Cristiano Ronaldo, who plays for capital club Al Nassr, with convincing BIE members in a video shown before the vote. The city has proposed hosting the event from October 2030 to March 2031.

The victory is the icing on the cake for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious Vision 2030 program, which aims to free the country from its oil dependence.

“We had a fantastic team of ministers traveling around the world and very, very actively engaging our counterparts to understand what they expected, what they were looking for and what we should deliver to gain their trust,” the Saudi said Foreign Minister said Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.

Critics said the crown prince wanted to use the fair to improve his country’s image after the killing of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a team of Saudi agents in 2018.

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