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.”