Saudi Arabia won the bid to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games during the meeting of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) General Assembly.
The games will take place at Trojena, the Gulf’s first outdoor ski resort which is yet to be constructed but is expected to be completed by 2026. Trojena forms a part of the $500 billion Neom project which is being spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia was the only candidate to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games as the OCA has struggled to find hosts resulting in the games not taking place in 2017.
President of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee (SAOC) and vice-president of the OCA, Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al Faisal, chaired the group which presented its proposals to the Executive Board.
According to Prince Abdulaziz, 47 medal events for both men and women will take place during the games while artificial snow would also be used as part of the project in addition to the natural snow, with “up to 70 per cent” of that used provided by snowmelt.
The use of artificial snow is hardly a surprise given temperatures rarely fall below 8 degrees Celcius in the country even during the coldest times.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched the NEOM project under the kingdom’s Vision 2030 development plan to reduce reliance on oil and transform the economy, including by developing sports.
Under his supervision, Saudi Arabia has funded the LIV Golf circuit, while the country has already been awarded next year’s World Combat Games, the 2025 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games and the 2034 Asian Games.
Saudi Arabia now also holds some of the biggest boxing fights, has a Formula 1 race on the calendar and even considered a bid for hosting the 2030 FIFA World Cup.
Critics of the country, however, continue to accuse it of staging all these events as a way of distracting people from its record on human rights through “sports washing”.