Saudi Arabia has ‘ambitious’ plans to land ‘big sporting events’

Updated 08 February 2018
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Saudi Arabia has ‘ambitious’ plans to land ‘big sporting events’

LONDON: The announcement on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia will stage the King Abdulaziz Horse Championship continues the Kingdom’s bold move to boost its entertainment industry by hosting landmark sporting events. Turki Al-Sheikh, president of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority, has said “many major sports events” are on the cards and boxing promoter Kalle Sauerland told Arab News that “some of the plans that the Saudis have to bring big sporting events there — they’ve acquired other interesting events — are very ambitious.”

Arab News takes a closer look at the three being staged in 2018.

SAUDI PSA WOMEN'S SQUASH MASTERS
  The world’s leading female players descended on Riyadh last month for the first World Series event of 2018 and the first ever professional women’s sports event to be held in Saudi Arabia. The tournament, held at Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University, featured 32 international players, including world champion Raneem El-Welily, world No. 1 Nour El-Sherbini and eight-time world champion Nicol David. El-Sherbini won the $165,000 event, triumphing over compatriot El-Welily.
“Bringing professional squash back to Saudi Arabia for the first time since 2010 has been an ambition of mine and I am grateful for the support of the Women’s Department of the Saudi General Authority for Sport to see this come to fruition,” said PSA Chairman and Saudi businessman Ziad Al-Turki.
“Not only is squash one of the healthiest sports it is the perfect sport for the Saudi climate. I’m hoping that this tournament will increase local participation in Saudi Arabia, and I look forward to working with all parties involved throughout the next six months insuring continued success for years to come.”


RACE OF CHAMPIONS The two-day event last week featured drivers from Formula One, Rallycross, IndyCar and other racing competitions and was the first ever motorsport to take place in the Kingdom. It was held at the 75,000-capacity King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh and was a family event “open to both genders”, according to the organizer’s website. David Coulthard, the 13-time Grand Prix winner, won the event, beating double World Rallycross Champion Petter Solberg in the final around the complex, rallycross-style circuit.
“As motorsport’s most forward-thinking property, ROC is an event perfectly suited to Saudi Arabia, which is emerging as a modern sports market on the global stage,” said Fredrik Johnsson, Race Of Champions president. “With women able to drive in Saudi Arabia from 2018, we feel this is an auspicious moment to be bringing a motorsport event to Riyadh.

WORLD BOXING SUPER SERIES CRUISERWEIGHT FINAL Jeddah is set to host what is being billed as the fight of the year on May 11 when Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev slug it out. The winner of the final will unify the division, winning the IBF, WBA, WBC, WBO and the RING Magazine cruiserweight championship belt, and emerge as the undefeated and undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world. Also at stake is the Muhammad Ali Trophy and $10 million for the winner.
“This agreement is part of our broader commitment and work to develop the sport of boxing in Saudi Arabia,” said Al-Sheikh. “Having the first final of such a high profile and groundbreaking tournament take place in Saudi Arabia is a key milestone for us, and will be one of many major sports events to take place in the Kingdom next year.”


Historymaker: Saudi teen secures Kingdom’s first ever Olympic gold medal

Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al-Assiri wins historic first gold for the country.
Updated 18 October 2018
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Historymaker: Saudi teen secures Kingdom’s first ever Olympic gold medal

  • The victory marked Saudi’s third time on the podium at the two-week Youth Olympics
  • I have been working towards this moment for 10 years, said the gold medalist

BUENOS AIRES: It is said that the karate-ka who has given the necessary years of commitment and meditation to the sport is both fearless and tranquil. They can, it is said, be calm even in a burning building.

Last night, inside a furnace-like Europe Pavilion at the Youth Olympic Park, and in front of Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al-Assiri won the Kingdom its first ever Olympic gold medal. And welcomed it, initially at least, with utmost calm. 

Defeating Masaki Yamaoka of Japan 8-0 in the Men’s Kumite -61kg final, the 17-year-old Saudi immediately thanked his opponent and bowed to the various officials, before turning to his coach, removing his red gloves slowly, and greeting him with a starch salute. Only afterwards, once these rituals of respect were over and his opponent had slipped away, did Al-Assiri explode with joy, his face contorting into beautiful agony as he screamed in guttural Arabic and jumped around the mat.

“I am so happy, so proud,” he said, his prize glinting in the spotlight of the world’s media. “This is the first gold medal for Saudi Arabia and our first medal ever in karate. I have been working towards this moment for 10 years, especially in the past two when my training intensified. I came for gold and this is the result of years of serious work. It was very difficult, but I am just so proud. Thank you to Allah.”

The victory marked Saudi’s third time on the podium at the two-week Youth Olympics, after bronze medals in weightlifting and 400m Hurdles. It is a stellar return for a country that brought only nine athletes to Argentina and has won just one medal at this level before, a bronze in equestrian four years ago. Yousef Jalaiden, the chef de mission for the Saudi delegation, had confidently predicted medals earlier this week, but even he admits expectations have been exceeded.

“We are very happy right now,” Jalaiden said, watching as Al-Assiri, wrapped in the Saudi flag, posed for photos with Prince Fahd bin Juluwe bin Abdulaziz bin Musaed, the head of the delegation. “It’s our best achievement ever at an Olympics — be it Youth or the full Olympics. We are so happy — we hoped for three medals, like I said before, and we got them,”

Karate is making its Olympic debut this week ahead of Tokyo 2020 and Assiri had secured his place after winning at the first qualifying event in Croatia this summer. In front of vocal support from Saudis and Egyptians, he was handed the historic victory after his offensive front-footed display culminated with Yamaoka fouling four times during their bout.

“During training, people from other countries were all telling us Mohammed would take gold, but for us it was never a certainty,” Jalaiden added. “We expected him to reach the final, but when you get to a final, anything can happen. He has been training exceptionally hard though and it has all paid off.”

Earlier in the afternoon, Egypt’s Yasmin Nasr El-Gewily won the Women’s Kumite 53kg final, defeating Japan’s Rinka Tahata 2-1. “Egypt are our neighbours and we have an excellent relationship with them, so today it is like our nation is one,” said Jalaiden. “We have both enjoyed great success here.”