expo lifecycle

How to organize an Expo?

If a country wants to host a World Expo or an International Specialized Expo, it has to follow 7 major steps.

To learn about the organization process of a Horticultural Expo, visit the website of the AIPH.

The Triennale di Milano is organized by the Triennale di Milano Institution.

  • 1. Submission of candidacy application

    Candidates submit their application

    The Government of the State wishing to organise an Expo must submit its candidature dossier to the BIE mentioning the proposed theme, the proposed dates, the duration of the Expo and the legal status of the organisers. The dossier must guarantee the full support of the government.

    To apply for World Expos, candidates must submit their applications between 6 and 9 years before the proposed opening dates of the exhibition.

    To apply for International Expos, candidates must submit their applications between 5 and 6 years before the proposed opening dates of the exhibition.

    After one country has submitted its application, any other government wishing to organise an exhibition for the same period has six months to submit its own application to the BIE. 
It should be noted that there must be at least 15 years between any two Expos organized in the same country.

  • 2. Bidding

    Candidates present and promote their projects

    Enquiry mission – project assessment
    At the end of the six-month period following the submission of the first candidacy application, enquiry missions are carried out by the BIE in the candidate country/city. They will assess the feasibility and viability of the Expo project, the political and social climate of the candidate country and city and the support of the government to the project.

    The following elements are evaluated:

    • The proposed theme (its definition and its content)
    • Date and duration
    • Location
    • Area of the Expo site
    • Number of expected visitors
    • Proposed measures to ensure financial feasibility and financial guarantees
    • Indicators that will allow the evaluation of the participation costs for countries and the proposed financial and material provisions to minimize this cost.
    • Attitude of relevant authorities and interested parties
    • Citizens' support
    • Environmental impact of the project
    • Plans for the communication and promotion of the project

    The results of the missions are compiled in a report, reviewed by the Executive Committee of the BIE and forwarded with advice to the General Assembly. The General Assembly then decides which proposals the BIE will further investigate. Once approved, the report forms the basis of evaluation by the BIE Member States during the vote.

    International campaign - project development
    As soon as they submit the initial application, candidate countries must carry out international campaigns to garner support for their project. They organize international symposiums, forums and other activities and travel the world to meet with representatives of BIE Member States.

  • 3. The vote

    The BIE member states vote for the host country

    At the end of the bidding phase, the BIE Member States vote for the host country by secret ballot during the BIE General Assembly. Each Member State has one vote and priority is given to candidatures submitted by Member States.

    The voting procedure:

    • If there are only two candidates, then the right to host an Expo is given to the proposal that obtains the most votes.
    • If there are more than two candidates, then a proposal must receive a 2/3 majority in order to win in the first round. If no proposal receives a 2/3 majority in the first round, the proposal that receives the least amount of votes is eliminated. This procedure carries on until there are only two candidates left. The host country will then be elected by simple majority.

    This procedure applies to Member States only; a 2/3 majority is required for a non-member state candidate to win the right to host an Expo.

    The selection criteria:

    • Feasibility and viability of the Expo project, as assessed by the enquiry mission.
    • Appeal of the theme: BIE Member States will assess the quality of the theme according to its universal interest and whether it will allow them to participate actively to the Expo.
    • Consideration of bilateral relations: the relations between the candidate country and the BIE Member State (not only existing relations but projected relations as well) can influence a Member State's decision.

    After a country wins the right to host an Expo, it must continue to work closely with the BIE and carry out the steps required by the BIE rules and regulations.

  • 4. Registration or recognition of the Expo project

    The BIE "registers" or "recognises" the Expo

    After the vote, the future host country has to formalise its Expo project by submitting a complete and definitive implementation plan for the Expo. This formalisation is called "registration" for World Expos and "recognition" for International Expos.

    The registration of World Expos must take place at least five years before the opening date. In the case of International Expos, the recognition must take place at least four years before the opening date.

    The registration or recognition dossiers must address:

    • Legislative and financial measures
    • The legal status of the Expo organisers
    • The development of the theme (theme selection, its definition, its development, applications)
    • The duration of the Expo
    • The master plan of the site
    • The financial plan
    • A preliminary promotional and communication plan (national and international)
    • Post-Expo plan
    • The commercial strategy of the organisers

    The dossier must be accompanied by the Expo's general regulations, the participation contracts that will be addressed to the future participants, the documents establishing and guaranteeing compensation in case of cancellation and any special regulations regarding the theme, the financial and material conditions for participation and the measures to minimize participation costs.

  • 5. Preparation and implementation of the Expo project

    The host country implements its Expo project

    It is only after the registration or the recognition of an Expo project that the host country can officially begin developing and implementing the event, including:

    • Planning, building and operating the site
    • Sending out, through diplomatic channels, official invitations to governments and international organizations to participate to the Expo
    • Working with participants and establishing the Participation guide. The host country will be in regular contact with the BIE Member States in order to optimize their participation to the Expo.
    • Developing the theme and implementing related activities
    • Planning and organizing the programs related to city development, culture, and events
    • Finalizing special regulations and implementing them
    • Finalizing communication and promotion plans and implementing them


    During this phase, Expo organizers are required to report regularly (twice a year) to the different BIE bodies:

    • The Executive Committee, to present the advancements of the Expo preparation
    • The Rules Committee, to present the special regulations of the event
    • The Communication and Information Committee, to present the Expo communication strategy
    • The General Assembly, to present an overall progress report. BIE Member States may make recommendations or ask for certain measures to be taken in order to ensure the smooth running of the Expo.
  • 6. Expo

    The Expo opens

    The Expo lasts 3 to 6 months according to its category. The scope of the event and its millions of visitors imply very tight logistics, extreme coordination and an intense calendar of events and activities. During this period, the organizing teams can go up to several thousand people, including volunteers.

  • 7. Post-Expo

    The host city develops its post-expo plan

    The closing of the Expo is the beginning of a new life for the area. A team is created to ensure the good management of the post-expo plan and make sure the site is transformed to fit the development needs of the region.

    The BIE accompanies countries in this post-expo phase and verifies that the plan presented during the preparation of the Expo is being properly implemented.

    Furthermore, once the Expo closes, the city joins the AVE (Association of Cities and Regions Hosting an International Exhibition), a network of all the cities that have hosted Expos to exchange ideas and experiences.

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