Saudi Arabia has applied to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at its planned megacity NEOM, as the kingdom attempts to boost its presence in international sports.
On Wednesday, the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced that it had submitted a letter of interest to the Olympic Council of Asia to host the tenth occurrence of the Asian Winter Games in 2029.
Official Communique 📝
📰| SOPC officially submits a letter of interest to the @AsianGamesOCA aiming to host the 10th Asian Winter Games (AWG) in TROJENA, @NEOM's global destination for mountain tourism.
Details 👇 pic.twitter.com/FpyHnHwQg1
— Saudi Olympic & Paralympic Committee (@saudiolympic) August 3, 2022
If Saudi Arabia succeeds in being chosen to host the games, it would be the first Middle Eastern and Arab country to do so since the first edition of the games took place in Japan in 1986. The sporting events would be held in the Trojena mountain destination and resort, which will have an "all-year ski village".
That mountainous resort is set to be part of Saudi Arabia's planned NEOM project, funded primarily through $500 billion allocated by the kingdom's Public Investment Fund. NEOM is due to be a technologically-advanced and eco-friendly megacity that will attract investment and companies from all around the world.
The Middle East looks likely to be a focal point for the post-pandemic 'Great Reset'
At 33 times the size of New York and located in Saudi Arabia's north-western Tabuk region along the coast of the Red Sea, it is a futuristic endeavour, with flying taxis, an artificial moon, and classes taught by holographic teachers all set to be witnessed within the megacity's boundaries by the year 2030.
Experts critical of the project, however, have insisted that such ambitious goals cannot be completed by then, but could take around 50 years to construct.
If Saudi Arabia were to host the games in seven years, it would likely be condemned by human rights groups and activists as yet another attempt by the kingdom to push itself into the international sports industry in an effort to 'sportswash' its poor human rights record and boost its standing on the world stage.
Saudi Arabia has spent 'at least' $1.5bn on 'sportswashing'
READ: Saudi to float megacity NEOM on stock market in 2024