King Abdullah Sports City debuts on May 1

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Updated 28 April 2014
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King Abdullah Sports City debuts on May 1

The Kingdom’s Western Province gets an important new landmark when the multi-use sports arena at the King Abdullah Sports City (KASC) opens on May 1 to host the final of the King's Cup.
Located about 50 km from Jeddah, King Abdullah Sports City is in a league of its own, joining the great sporting venues in the world. It also has unique features that surpass many of the world’s best.
It has already taken its place as an iconic architectural expression on the Jeddah and Saudi skyline but, behind the facade, the KASC is more than just a sports venue — it is a pillar of engineering excellence that boasts the latest in large-venue technology from the grass on the pitch, to a cutting-edge external design that promotes energy efficiency and natural air cooling.
From the Madinah Road and the Makkah-Madinah Expressway — two of the main arteries traveling north out of Jeddah — the awe-inspiring stadium comes into definition. Its bulbous outline, adorned with Arabian-style exterior design, appears like a jewel rising out of the sand.
KASC is going to be pivotal for the onward journey of the Kingdom toward athletic excellence.
“In recognition of the importance of sports, its benefits and role in the progress of humanity, and out of keenness on the welfare of Saudi youth, we have decided to establish the King Abdullah Sports City,” King Abdullah said in a 2009 royal decree.
The KASC vision is to promote health, economic and social welfare through sports, to encourage social interactions between Saudi citizens and the world and to elevate the Kingdom’s international athletic performance.
To this end, a world-class sporting facility, alongside cultural landmarks, will help advance the health of Saudi Arabia and positively develop its youth through sporting activities.
However, the vision is not just restricted to the local and the regional. One of the chief objectives is for it to be a globally recognized as a sports venue capable of attracting international events, with multifunctional sports, recreation, cultural and training facilities that will be economically, culturally and socially and environmentally sustainable.
Spectators will enjoy a crowd-management system that sees them guided conveniently to allocated seats, and free Wi-Fi allows spectators to stay connected throughout events.
Other unique factors are the four locker rooms for players, which mean that two semi-final games could be played in one day. There are separate offices for managers and separate locker rooms for coaches and a warm-up area for players with synthetic turf flooring so that they can warm up with boots on. There are flash media interview studios near the locker rooms and a state-of-the-art press conference room. More than 150 paintings by Saudi artists, displayed around all parts of the stadium, turn every hallway into an art exhibit.
KASC was constructed on 3 million square meters. It also includes a 60,000-capacity football stadium which comfortably meets the standards of the International Football Association (FIFA). One of the most distinguishing features of this stadium is that it does not include an athletics track, which puts the spectators at the heart of the event and makes it more enjoyable to them.
Another distinguishing feature is that KASC has met requirements of spectators with special needs in its design. In addition to elevators and toilets, there are hundreds of parking spots and seats for them and their companions reserved at premium locations.
The stadium’s two massive 9.5x16-meter screens add more visual enjoyment and excitement for spectators. Among its unique facilities are three outdoor football playgrounds, four football arenas, six tennis courts, outdoor running tracks and facilities as well as an office for the General Presidency for Youth Welfare.
The main stadium has nine static and 15 mobile camera locations that will help TV stations broadcast the events at the highest international standards.
The spectator seating area consists of three levels aimed at providing very clear vision to the pitch, and a canopy of hard cloth and steel mesh protects spectators from sunlight and rains.
Sports Hall: The Sports Hall is a sport specific venue for basketball, volleyball, handball, five-a-side football, badminton and table tennis. It is fully air conditioned, and it has been conceived as a “black box” to meet federation and broadcast requirements. All sports will be supported for international and high definition (HD) televising. The design maximizes flexibility and shares facilities with the stadium. Other cultural and exhibition events can be held within the building’s capacity limit, services provisions and infrastructure.
Athletics Stadium: The Athletics Stadium will boast a seating capacity of 1,000 seats and that can be extended to 2,000 seats if required. It has been designed to host National Class 2 competitions. It features an eight-lane, 400-meter track, nine lanes straight and a natural grass infield. Spectators in the Athletics Stadium will be protected from the glare of the sun and the elements.
King Abdullah requested Saudi Aramco to tackle the project, and the result is a set of facilities engineered and constructed to the highest standards employing the latest technology for energy efficiency, safety and the comfort of spectators and athletes alike.


How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2019
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How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”