The Ukrainian port city of Odesa is campaigning to host Expo 2030. Three other cities are in the running – Rome, Italy; Busan, South Korea; and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Obviously, with Ukraine in the midst of a brutal war for survival and missiles regularly hitting Odesa, Ukraine’s biggest port city has many strikes – literally – against it.

And yet, with so many outside investors looking to help rebuild Ukraine, not just after the war, but right now, Odesa’s candidacy is looking better by the day. The final decision will be made in November.

Kyiv Post spoke with Roman Grygoryshyn, deputy chairman of the Odesa regional state administration, about how the historic city plans to prepare for the event and host visitors from all over the world.

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Grygoryshyn elaborated on the exhibition project, which was developed by the architectural firm of the late Zaha Hadid, the renowned British-Iraqi architect who transformed contemporary cityscapes until her untimely death in 2016.

What is the main idea and concept of the Expo 2030 project in Odesa? 

The project that we submitted for this competition is called Renaissance Technology Future. The main idea concerns the connection between humanity and technology. 

For the first time in the history of the exhibition, the pavilions will all be in the same style. We developed this concept together with Zaha Hadid Architects. The main idea is to demonstrate new technologies and opportunities for people, not to have pavilions competing among themselves.

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How did you manage to start working with Zaha Hadid Architects?  

In Feb. 24, 2022, we sent a request. They responded positively. However, we all know what happened on that date. After that, of course, we thought it would not be possible to continue any commercial cooperation.

But a year ago, in April, I got a call from their regional director, Manuela Gatto, who wanted to continue working. When I replied that, unfortunately, we are not ready to continue commercial cooperation, she said, “No, you don’t understand. We are ready to cooperate on a pro-bono basis. We want to provide the architectural concept to your country and your people.” She also added that Ukrainians are incredible, and Ukraine itself is a marker of victory and their bureau wants to win together with Ukraine. 

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Why should Odesa be chosen for the exhibition?

The history of Expo goes back more than 200 years. And during this period, the exhibition has never been held in Eastern Europe. Moreover, one of the main ideas of this event is that the exhibition should be held on different continents. And every five years it is held in a different part of the world. There was an exhibition in South Korea in 2012, in 2015 it was in Milan, and in 2021, Dubai.

What challenges have you encountered and how do you plan to solve them? 

The main challenge now is, obviously, the war. If the war continues until the selection process [in November], we will not have much chance of winning.

Organizational issues are already secondary obstacles for us to deal with. In addition, for the first time in the history of Expo, we have a chance to team up with other competitors. This will help us find solutions that will allow us to continue participating in this contest.

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What resources and support would you like to receive from the authorities and society for the successful implementation of the project?

Today… we need a unified position from all levels of society, from the community to the government. We need to demonstrate to the International Exhibition Bureau and all participating countries that Ukraine is ready to guarantee the success of construction within the framework of this project.

After all, we are talking about preparing and rebuilding the infrastructure for everyone who will come. To do this, we also need to determine the budget…

One of the main aspects is financing. If you look at the implementation in other countries, it was done there using different systems, a combination of state funding, community and regional budgets. In addition, it is still necessary to attract the private sector, international corporations and investment, as was the case in Dubai.

If Odesa wins, companies will have the opportunity to build their own pavilion to show themselves to a fairly large audience during the event. Or they will be able to invest in certain infrastructure facilities, thus advertising themselves and helping Ukraine rebuild. And there are a lot of such mutually beneficial cooperation options.

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Are you concerned about corruption? And what are the ways to solve this problem?

Yes. First of all, the central authorities will need to build an open project management system. We need to create a state-owned enterprise that organizes all the processes.

However, so far, the main task is to win the selection process. After that, we will cooperate daily with the International Exhibition Bureau.

How will Expo projects affect the development of culture and tourism in Odesa? 

We must understand that Odesa has weight with its history. Even a few months ago, the city received the status of a UNESCO cultural heritage site. However, today we cannot clearly explain to people why they should come to Odesa. First of all, we must answer this question for ourselves.

For me, since childhood, Odesa was associated with a good feelings. It was a holiday city.

What opportunities will open up for investors, particularly in Odesa, after the start of the Expo project?

First of all, even the chance to organize an exhibition is an important indicator and a sort of magnet for investors, including foreign ones. 

After all, businesses around the world understand that preparations for Expo 2030 in Odesa and the Odesa region will entail large-scale construction: roads, renovation of buildings, airports, construction of railway connections, and preparation of the territory where the exhibition will be held. In other words, it will become a large-scale economic activity, giving many companies an opportunity to earn money.

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What areas will open up for businessmen?

Firstly, for agriculture and industry. Then for the IT sector and logistics, because Odesa is a major logistics hub not only for Ukraine, but also for the whole of Eastern Europe.

Today the infrastructure is not fully operational. The Expo will open up opportunities for new investment projects in the port infrastructure – new terminals, in particular cargo and structural logistics.

And, of course, we must understand that during the Expo, it is estimated that more than 15 million people could come to Odesa. In other words, this is a development for the entertainment tourism sector.

And what will happen to the pavilions after the project is completed? 

In fact, this is a big problem for all host cities.

One idea is for the Expo site to become a large IT city, where companies will be able to conduct their business, create new startups, and specialists will be able to live on the territory of the town.

For example, if 20,000-30,000 people live and work in this area, they will also spend money in the community. That is, they will buy apartments or other property, create other businesses and buy food products in our markets. This has a positive impact on the whole economy

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What will the long-term consequences be for Ukraine as a whole?

Firstly, it will further enhance our reputation. Secondly, there is the economic impact. Millions of people will come to Ukraine. Some from the western border, some from the southern border. People will come from all over the world through Kyiv’s international airports.

And preparing for this will have a long-term effect. Because many people will have jobs, many companies will pay taxes and have development opportunities. 

In addition, now in the world people know about Ukraine as a center of agriculture, but only from the side of resources. Here we have a great opportunity to build an agro-industrial complex, agricultural enterprises that will provide a finished product – not just resources.

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