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RIYADH: Hours before Saudi Arabia recently won the right to host World Expo 2030, Italian businessmen Roberto Daneo and Giorgio Re were with the Kingdom’s team in Paris eagerly awaiting the voting results. 

The pair head WePlan, a company hand-selected alongside Avisa group by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City to help develop Riyadh’s bid. 

The Italian event specialists have a track record in securing bids, including Dubai World Expo 2020, the Milan-Cortina 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and several sporting world championships. 

From 2006, while working in the Italian city of Turin, Daneo gained five-and-half years’ experience on the organizing committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

He told Arab News that the success of Riyadh’s bid was built on “all the unique selling points that Riyadh could put on the table,” including packages for developing countries and a so-called collaborative change corner initiative. 

Nicknamed C3, the collaborative change scheme will involve the Kingdom, from 2025, financing and supporting more than 27 projects from different countries to ready their Expo displays for 2030. 

Re noted that Vision 2030 had provided a strong foundation to work on as the country had already been proving its capabilities to an international audience. 

He said: “We highlighted the fact that the Expo site visit could be bundled with all the other touristic opportunities that KSA is implementing from now to 2030.” 

Daneo pointed out that Saudi Arabia’s economic profile was an additional plus. 

He said: “The countries to vote want a very high return on investment. Therefore, they want to make sure that the country is really a booming economy, a growing country like the Kingdom is.” 

Re and Daneo said the work involved in securing the bid had been a team effort between themselves, Avisa group, and the Saudi authorities.

The Italian business partners had even been competing against their own capital, Rome, which came third with 17 votes against Riyadh’s 119. 

“Of course, it was not easy for us to compete against our capital. It was all about the timing in the sense that Saudi Arabia contacted us, I think in late 2020, and we started discussions with the RCRC on conceiving the candidature of Riyadh for the Expo. 

“So, we as professionals, decided to stay linked to the client that reached out to us first,” Re added. 

Daneo said: “It was a question of respect and a question of loyalty to the client that believed in us and therefore we wanted to show that we were truly and fully committed to the final result.” 

The duo noted that, for them, working with a foreign client had proved to be an advantage when dealing with voting members. 

Daneo and Re’s involvement in Dubai World Expo 2020 had opened their minds to Arab culture. 

“I’m personally trying, very soon, to start learning Arabic. I can already detect from the start of the language that it’s really fascinating,” Daneo added. 

Re said: “Being from Sicily, Arab culture is also in a way part of our background. Let’s think about the Arab architecture or even some food. We have couscous in Sicily, for example, there’s also some link there.” 

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