Creating new perspectives since 2009

Saudi eyes Olympics, rejects sportswashing claims

August 22, 2022 at 1:32 pm

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s Sports Minister, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on 19 August 2022 [RANIA SANJAR/AFP/Getty Images]

Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdul-Aziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal said the kingdom sees hosting the Olympic Games an “ultimate goal” and rejected accusations that it was using sports to clean its record of human rights violations, a practice dubbed “sportswashing”.

“Our main focus now is on the 2034 Asian Games,” Al-Faisal, who is also president of the Saudi Olympic Committee, told AFP in the Red Sea city of Jeddah ahead of the heavyweight boxing clash in which Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk beat Britain’s Anthony Joshua in the early hours of Sunday.

In 2034, Riyadh will host the Asian Games; a large-scale multi-sport event that Al-Faisal believes could pave the way for a bid to host the Summer Olympics.

“We’re open to discuss with the IOC about this [hosting the Olympics] for the future. I think Saudi Arabia has showcased that we can host such events,” Al- Faisal said, adding: “Definitely, the Olympics would be an ultimate goal for us… But we’re open to that, and I think we can.”

The Usyk-Joshua fight came a day after the United Nations rights office called for the immediate and unconditional release of the Saudi PhD student and activist, Salma Al-Shehab, who was convicted by a Saudi court and handed a 34-year prison term for resharing tweets critical of the government.

READ: Saudi becomes first Arab country to sit on global chess body’s advisory board