Saudi Arabia Riyadh will host the Expo 2030 world fair, the vote results from 182 members of the Bureau International des Expositions showed on Tuesday.
South Korea port city of Busan and Rome in Italy were also in the running to host the five-yearly event that attracts millions of visitors and billions of dollars in investment.
According to statistics from 182 members of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) in Paris, Riyadh received 119 votes, Busan 29, and Rome 17. For Saudi Arabia to prevail in the first round, two thirds of the votes were required.
"This huge result for Saudi was unexpected in those proportions," Giampiero Massolo, head of the Italian Expo bid, told reporters. "It is no longer about the merits, but about transactions.
Yoon Suk Yeol, the president of South Korea, congratulated Saudi Arabia for winning the bid, referring to the Gulf state as a key partner and said that his country will contribute resources and expertise to ensure that Riyadh event was a success.
Cristiano Ronaldo, a soccer player for the Al-Nassr Saudi club, was invited by Riyadh to persuade supporters in a video that was shown prior to the vote. The event is scheduled to take place in Riyadh in October 2030 and March 2031.
The victory is the cherry on top of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman enormous Vision 2030 initiative, which tries to wean the nation off of its reliance on oil.
We had a fantastic team of ministers going around the world, engaging our counterparts in a very, very active way to understand what they expected, what they were looking for and what we should deliver in order to gain their trust, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said.
Particularly, France had backed Saudi Arabia, which infuriated Rome. President Emmanuel Macron advisors stated that Saudi assistance on other matters central to French diplomatic goals was exchanged for French support.