The project for the 2008 Exhibition dates back to the 1999 municipal elections: the candidate Juan Alberto Belloch emphasised his desire to organise a major event to celebrate the bicentenary of "los Sitios de Zaragoza" (the siege of Napoleonic troops) in 1808 and the first centenary of the Hispano-French Exhibition of 1908.
In July 2000, the Consortium Pro Exposition Zaragoza 2008 was formed. It is supported by the main Aragonese public institutions such as the Zaragoza City Council, the
Diputación General de Aragón, the Diputación Provincial de Zaragoza and the Cortes de Aragón. On 20 October 2000, the project received the official support of the Council of Ministers.
In January 2004, Spain officially presented its candidacy to the Bureau International des Expositions. In support of its candidacy, the organisation emphasised the need for development and stability in Spain, its consolidation as a tourist destination and its experience in organising major events (the Barcelona Olympic Games and the Universal Exhibition in Seville in 1992). At a regional and local level, the main arguments are Aragon's privileged geographical location (equidistant from the most important cities: Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, etc.) and the fact that the region is located in the heart of the Mediterranean: Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao), its experience as a congress city, the realisation of major projects such as the AVE (Spanish equivalent of the TGV) and PLAZA (the largest logistics platform in Spain). At the same time, an intense promotional campaign is being implemented.
After a fact-finding mission and votes at the BIE General Assembly, Zaragoza was named the site of the 2008 International Exposition on December 16, 2004 in Paris, beating out the candidacies of Thessaloniki (Greece) and Trieste (Italy).
Halfway between the Aichi 2005 exhibition, "Nature's Wisdom", and the Shanghai 2010 exhibition, "Better City, Better Life", the Zaragoza International Exposition could not avoid tackling the theme of sustainable development.
Located in a semi-arid region surrounded by mountains, Zaragoza was founded in Roman times, built at the confluence of three rivers: the Ebro, the Gallego and the Huerva. Good water management has been a key factor in the region's territorial planning and development. Aware of these challenges, Zaragoza is the first major Spanish city to completely purify its water, and has been recognised as a "water-saving city" by the United Nations. The designation of Zaragoza as the headquarters of the Secretariat of the "International Decade for Action: Water for Life (2005-2015)" has reinforced its image as an international reference point for the new water culture.
The main novelty of Expo Zaragoza 2008 is that it has been designed around a debate and reflection on a major social issue: water and sustainable development. The Mayor of Zaragoza, Juan Alberto Belloch, declared that "from now on, International Expos will be designed differently: with the Zaragoza method, that of debate".
Although the success of Expo Zaragoza 2008 was mixed, Zaragoza's municipal officials can be satisfied with the international publicity that Zaragoza has received, not to mention the renewal of the city's infrastructure. The capital of Aragon now hopes to exceed one million visitors annually.
The city has benefited from 800 million euros of investment and is inheriting pavilions that will be recycled for office use: the idea is to develop a new business zone, mainly in the service sector.