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Jamal Khashoggi: 'We've all made mistakes,' says golf star, defending rival Saudi tour

Commemoration ceremony held in front of the US Congress on the anniversary of the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on 2 October 2021 [Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency]
Commemoration ceremony held in front of the US Congress on the anniversary of the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on 2 October 2021 [Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency]

Former world number one, Greg Norman, has come under sharp criticism for defending a new $255m Saudi-funded golf tour by downplaying the murder of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally killed in 2018 in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Fielding questions about human rights in Saudi Arabia at an event to promote the new LIV Golf series, Norman appeared to minimise the killing of Khashoggi, by saying "we've all made mistakes."

A declassified US intelligence report released in February 2021 asserted that the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was complicit in Khashoggi's killing – an allegation Bin Salman has denied. A 2019 UN report also reached a similar conclusion.

Norman, however, appeared keen to put the Khashoggi matter aside while promoting the breakaway golf league funded by the Saudis. "Look, we've all made mistakes and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward," the 67-year-old Australian said.

The multi-million-dollar tour will be funded by Saudi's Public Investment Fund (PIF), which provides the money for many sporting events, including Formula 1, boxing, football and golf. Bin Salman is the Chair of the fund.

Norman, who won two Open Championships and spent more than 300 weeks as world number one in the 1980s and 90s told BBC Sport on Tuesday that he had secured an extra $2bn from PIF that would allow his LIV Golf plans to stretch for "decades".

The rival tour to the PGA – set to begin next month – has come under fire with critics claiming Saudi Arabia is using the sport of golf to "sportswash" its appalling human rights record.

READ: Golf superstar refuses to play in Saudi over 'morality' concerns

"It is so hurtful when Jamal's brutal killing is brushed off as a 'mistake', and that we should just move on," Hatice Cengiz, who was Khashoggi's fiancée, said. "How can we go forward when those who ordered the murder are still unpunished, and continue to try to buy back their legitimacy? We should not fall for their wealth and lies, and lose our morals and common humanity."

The Saudi funded tour has not only sparked criticism because of human rights issue, it appears to have also created a power struggle in the golfing world. The PGA has threatened to ban anyone who plays in the breakaway tour. Norman told the BBC he had five of the world's top 50 committed to the Centurion tournament.

Eight invitational events are scheduled for 2022, with Norman saying more will follow in 2023, with a team-based 14-event league running from 2024. The first seven tournaments will each have a prize fund of $25m, with $4m (£3.2m) going to the winner, and a $50m prize pot for the final event.

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Middle EastNewsSaudi Arabia
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