Saudi Arabia has been nominated on Tuesday to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games in Neom, a futuristic megacity under construction in the northwest of the desert kingdom, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) announced.
“The deserts and mountains of Saudi Arabia will soon be a playground for winter sports,” the organization said in a statement, adding that the decision had been taken “unanimously” at its general assembly. in Phnom Penh.
Located on the shores of the Red Sea, the Neom project, worth several hundred billion dollars and carried by the powerful Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, has been widely talked about since the first announcement made in 2017.
Architects and economists have questioned its feasibility.
Ski slopes open all year round
The Asian Winter Games should precisely take place in Trojena, a mountainous sector of Neom “where temperatures drop below zero degrees in winter and where temperatures throughout the year are generally 10 degrees lower” at the edge of sea, say the promoters on their website, without mentioning the question of precipitation.
Trojena, which is expected to be completed in 2026, will include year-round ski slopes, an artificial freshwater lake, chalets, mansions and luxury hotels, according to the same source.
Mohammed bin Salman holds the position of chairman of Neom’s board of directors. De facto leader of the kingdom, he promised with this project to “redefine mountain tourism in the world”, while respecting the principles of eco-tourism.
The director of Neom, Nadhmi al-Nasr, for his part affirmed that Trojena would be equipped with “adequate infrastructures to create a winter atmosphere in the heart of the desert, and to make these Winter Games an unprecedented world event”.
Human rights abuses
The Asian Winter Games include competitions in skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey and figure skating, totaling 47 events, including 28 on snow and 19 on ice, according to the OCA.
“I never believed that I would ski (one day) in my country”, reacted Tuesday the Saudi alpine skier Fayik Abdile, quoted in the press release of the organization.
Sporting events have multiplied in recent years in Saudi Arabia, accused by NGOs of wanting to divert attention from human rights abuses in the kingdom.
In an interview with AFP, the Saudi Minister of Sports, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, recently mentioned his country’s desire to organize one day the Olympic Games.
An Egyptian official told him last month that Egypt, Greece and Saudi Arabia had started discussions on a possible joint bid for the FIFA World Cup in 2030.
Source: Challenges en temps réel : accueil by www.challenges.fr.
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