Monday, July 15, 2024

Expo 2027 Belgrade: Exclusive Interview with Dr. Dušan Borovčanin

Interview by Jim Ogul

On June 21, 2023, Member States of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) elected Serbia as host country of Specialized Expo 2027. Serbia prevailed in four rounds of voting over Spain, the United States, Thailand and Argentina. Expo 2027 will take place in Belgrade May 15-August 15, 2027 with the theme “Play for Humanity: Sport and Music for All.”

There are two categories of expos (aka world’s fairs or international expositions). Specialized Expos last up to three months, occupy not more than 62 acres; their scheduling windows are in between larger World Expos, which occur every five years. The most recent Specialized Expo was in 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan under the theme “Future Energy,” and received almost 4 million visits.

For this exclusive interview, InPark’s expo specialist Jim Ogul spoke to Dr. Dušan Borovčanin, CEO of the Serbia Convention Bureau, and Project manager for the Bid Dossier of EXPO 2027 Belgrade.

Congratulations on Serbia’s winning bid to host Expo 2027 in Belgrade! Can you share some insights into the process that led to this success?

Thank you very much. This is indeed an historical success for Serbia.

Even though Serbia has a long history and tradition of participation at world’s fairs (The Kingdom of Serbia first participated in Antwerp in 1885) this was the first time we decided to bid for the role of host. Remarkably, we managed to win in a very competitive race between five countries.

I think the idea of bringing the expo to Serbia and the region inspired people to come onboard. We had a contagious energy all the way to the final vote.

Regarding the bid itself, I would say there were several unique features that helped us to convince delegates to vote in our favor. One aspect was certainly our unusual and engaging theme. Another was Serbia’s position in the international community. Finally, I think our professionalism through the entire process – from the very first meeting with the BIE secretariat, through numerous general assemblies, symposia, receptions etc. – demonstrated our capability to do amazing work.

How will Serbia leverage this moment on the global stage?

The slogan of the Serbian Tourism Board is “Experience Serbia,” and I am sure every visitor of the EXPO in Belgrade will be privileged to experience the very best of Serbia.

This is a unique opportunity for Serbia and the entire Western Balkans region to showcase the best we have to the rest of the world, in every sense. Likewise, it is a wonderful opportunity for the rest of the world to get acquainted with the region’s amazing history, culture, science, and economic potential.

This region has an incredibly rich history and was often a place that trajected the course of history of Europe, and perhaps the entire world. I will just mention a few interesting insights that will most certainly find their way to the EXPO in 2027.

One of the earliest urban settlements in Europe, Lepenski vir, is located near Belgrade in Eastern Serbia. It is important because this is some of the earliest evidence of two cultures meeting and mixing. It speaks to the history of this region and the evolution of the human race.

Some of the world’s leading scientists such as Nikola Tesla, Mihajlo Pupin, Milutin Milankovic and Mileva Maric were Serbs. They transformed and influenced the course of our civilization. The Museum of Nikola Tesla in Belgrade, devoted to his legacy will have a presence in the central pavilion.

Yet, although we are inspired with our past, when we were thinking about EXPO in 2027, we were thinking about the future. And the future seems uncertain today. Thus, our mission was to create an event where every individual, and every community will learn how to become more resilient to the challenges we are all facing.

We believe that using our power of imagination, creativity, and innovation inspired with play – characteristics we all share as humans since the moment we are born – can help us guide the human race forward. Since play is the essence of recreation, sport, and music we believe the EXPO 2027 could be the largest celebration of the global recovery in 2027.

Tell us more about the theme and how your group will express it.

We believe that there is no single person that can firmly tell you what our future holds. So, thinking of the theme for EXPO 2027 in Belgrade, we wanted to find one single element that can light the spark in every human being to make something good for humanity. This is what we identify as the power of play.

Play in its very essence connects us on the deepest and most basic level. It has lit the spark to some of the most advanced scientific discoveries, and finally, it simply brings joy and helps us better understand one another.

Inspired by play, curiosity, creativity and joy, we are certain that EXPO 2027 in Belgrade will showcase the most advanced discoveries, and that our visitors will enjoy coming back to EXPO several times throughout the three months of exhibition.

Hosting such a significant event requires extensive planning and infrastructure development. What are some key projects and initiatives?

This project will be alongside the development of Belgrade Metro lines, the largest urban development in Belgrade in the last couple of decades. The EXPO site is part of the wider development project of our capital and it includes the construction of the National Stadium, the residential and hospitality area, a new university campus and sport facilities. It is ideally located in between two main road routes in the country and well connected with Nikola Tesla Airport of Belgrade.

The concept project of our EXPO venue was made by the world-renowned architectural studio Fenwick Iribarren Architects, which is known for the realization of mega facilities for mass events. For the 2022 World Cup in Doha, Qatar, this company designed three out of 10 stadiums, including the famous Stadium 974.

An enormous amount of work is ahead for us, but everything is much easier when you have an exciting and worthwhile goal.

Sustainability and environmental considerations are increasingly important for large-scale events such as world expos. What measures will Serbia implement?

Indeed. It is necessary to think sustainably when going into these projects. I would like to highlight that our focus is not only on environmental protection, but rather on sustainability in every sense – including economic and social sustainability.

As for environmental protection, one of the guiding ideas in developing the concept of the exhibition space was the use of renewable energy sources, the use and sustainable management of water resources (given the proximity of the Sava River site), a goal of zero emissions and integration of the site into the environment by implementing technologically advanced and long-term sustainable solutions.

The location itself and the immediate surroundings will be greened with landscaping solutions that support passive cooling, and appropriate water channels will be used for additional cooling. In addition, the master plan pays attention to surface materials under roofs and pergolas, and appropriate fans will be used with water spray to cool visitors, having in mind the time of year.

How does Serbia plan to engage and attract participation from countries, organizations, and businesses around the world?

I am proud to say we have already received official invitations from several countries that expressed their interest to participate at the EXPO 2027 in Belgrade. Receiving these supporting messages makes us proud.  You know, in the final voting round, we received the support of 81 countries. Having such strong support in the international arena, and with our engaging theme, I believe our team will not have a very demanding task negotiating the participation of international participants.

In terms of legacy, how does Serbia envision the impact of hosting the World’s Fair in 2027 on its economy, tourism industry, and overall international reputation?

The economic returns can be divided into three cycles. First, from now until opening day, the creation of new businesses and new jobs. Second, during EXPO 2027, the benefits of tourism.

Third, the legacy impact. The EXPO site was designed in order to continue its life as the biggest and most modern tradeshow complex in this part of Europe after closing day.

But also, to my mind there’s the intangible benefit: the immeasurable value beyond everything else is the international reputation. This will be a unique opportunity to host the world in Serbia and, for younger generations in this region, instill a whole new mentality – a more positive sense of themselves and their value and purpose.

How can interested individuals and organizations stay updated and get involved in the preparations?

It is a well-structured process, led by the BIE. The new company EXPO 2027 Belgrade will be founded to manage the entire process. We expect this to be done not later than the end of September 2023. I’m sure EXPO 2027 in Belgrade will create enough room for every single individual and organization interested in contributing or participating. Currently, the official contact points are via web and email [email protected].

Jim Ogul
Jim Ogul
Since retiring from the US State Department in 2011 after a 30+ year career in world expos, James Ogul ([email protected]) has remained on the scene in an advisory and consulting role. He writes regularly for InPark Magazine about world’s fairs. See his free online book, Tales From the Expo.

Related Articles

Latest Articles