On 21 June 2024, BIE Member States elected Serbia as the host country of Specialised Expo 2027, during the 172nd General Assembly of the BIE. Being held in Belgrade under the theme “Play for Humanity – Sport and Music for All”, preparations are already well underway for the first Expo to be organised in the Western Balkans region. A year after Serbia’s election, Dušan Borovčanin, the CEO of the Expo organising entity, provides an update on progress and his expectations for the event.

Dušan Borovčanin, CEO of the Expo 2027 Belgrade organising entity. Image credit: Expo 2027 Belgrade

How has the Expo project progressed in the past 12 months?

Dušan Borovčanin: Over the past year, excitement about the fact that we will be hosting the entire world in three years' time has not waned; quite the opposite. BIE Member States awarded Serbia with the huge honour and responsibility of hosting the first ever Expo in the Western Balkans, and this is reflected in how we are approaching it.

As the public becomes increasingly informed about what Specialised Expo 2027 Belgrade means and brings to the host country, interest and anticipation are growing.

The preparatory work at the Expo site is ahead of schedule, but our aim is to accelerate even further to complete the work before December 2026, when we are scheduled to hand over the keys of the pavilions to participating countries. We are also working on a number of operational plans for 2027. Our mission is to mobilise the entire community to get on board with this project. When I say “we”, I think about the amazing group of people from various government, non-government, and private organisations currently working to make the vision for Expo 2027 Belgrade a reality.

"As the public becomes increasingly informed about what Specialised Expo 2027 Belgrade means and brings to the host country, interest and anticipation are growing"

Celebrations following the election of Serbia as Specialised Expo 2027 host country by the 172nd General Assembly of the BIE. Image credit: BIE

How will the theme of Specialised Expo 2027 Belgrade, “Play for humanity – Sport and Music for all”, be developed? In what ways can play, sport, and music catalyse positive change in the world?

Dušan Borovčanin: Music and sport have an incredible power to inspire and to bring people and nations together. Play is the central element of both. Moreover, music and sport, as well as traditional games and dances, are a huge element of every country’s identity, history, and tradition. But there is even more to it than that.

The answer is creativity. How is this linked to play, you might ask yourself?

Almost half a century ago, a study conducted by Prof. Donald Wallace McKinnon, from University of California, Berkeley, showed that creativity is not an ability that you either have or do not have, and that it is in no way linked to IQ.

In fact, what he proved is that those that were arguably the most creative ones were in a position to place themselves into a state of mind that allowed their natural creativity to surface. He described this ability as the ability to PLAY. In our candidacy, we called this phenomenon the Power of PLAY.

Why is this so important? Because creativity enables us to cope with uncertainty, to challenge perception, and to make a positive impact on the world.

"Music and sport have an incredible power to inspire and to bring people and nations together"

The world is very much an uncertain place these days, and we need creative minds, and we need people ready to challenge perceptions and make the world a better place. We need people to PLAY FOR HUMANITY with us.

While the Expo will not open its gates for another three years, can you already provide a glimpse of the type of content that visitors will be able to discover at the Expo?

Dušan Borovčanin: Whether a visitor is interested in the health benefits of physical activity, the role of sports in promoting social cohesion, or the therapeutic effects of music on mental well-being, our programme has it covered.

We are still working on the development of the Specialised Expo’s content, but what is essential to share is that we see this very much as a co-creation process. We plan on working closely with international participants and see their thought leaders, sport ambassadors, scientists, and artists all over the programme of Expo 2027 Belgrade.

Once the Specialised Expo is formally recognised, Serbia will be able to invite countries to participate. Is there interest in the Expo’s theme from around the world?

Dušan Borovčanin: We are very happy and grateful that there is an incredible level of interest in Expo 2027 Belgrade from countries and international organisations, especially considering that there has never before been an Expo in the Western Balkans. We are certain we will see more than 100 countries represented in Belgrade in 2027. Although there are many countries that are eager and interested in participating, we will only start with official invitations once we finalise all the official procedures of Recognition. In this sense we benefit from strong support from the team of experts at the BIE.

"This is the region of the future, and we certainly see Expo 2027 Belgrade as one of the best ways to shed the light of the world into it"

 The Secretary General of the BIE, Dimitri S. Kerkentzes, with Dušan Borovčanin during a BIE Technical Visit to Belgrade. Image credit: Expo 2027 Belgrade

How can you measure the impact of hosting Expo 2027 Belgrade, for Serbia and the wider region?

Dušan Borovčanin: Expo 2027 Belgrade is more than a showcase of global cultures and innovation. It is a catalyst for profound urban and social transformation. We are therefore embarking on a journey to not only prepare our city for an influx of international visitors but to foster a lasting positive impact that will continue to resonate long after the Expo has concluded.

We approach assessments of the Expo’s impact carefully and we do not want to give unrealistic expectations. Aside from the fundamental economic effect, which we estimate to be over 1.1 billion euros from the 92 days of the Expo alone (not to mention before and after it), I truly believe that far more important is the long-term impact of the collaborations, partnerships, investments, and diplomatic relations set to take shape over the three years leading up to the event and, of course, everything after 2027.

Opinions given by external contributors do not necessarily reflect the views and position of the BIE. Click here to find out more about contributing to the BIE Blog.