DiplomaticQuarter: Relations between Paris and Riyadh are better than ever, says French envoy

French Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Francois Gouyette meets Tabuk Gov. Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz. (SPA)
Updated 25 April 2019
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DiplomaticQuarter: Relations between Paris and Riyadh are better than ever, says French envoy

  • Gouyette expressed his appreciation for the historic status of the Tabuk region

RIYADH: French Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Francois Gouyette has praised the partnership between Paris and Riyadh, saying that the relationship is the best it has ever been.

Speaking after a meeting with Tabuk Gov. Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the envoy added that France is a strategic partner of the Kingdom and seeks to develop these fraternal ties by promoting scientific, cultural and commercial exchanges.

As part of this mission, he said, there have been discussions about various types of cooperation, and one of the objectives of his Tabuk visit is to identify opportunities for the two nations to work as partners in a variety of fields. These include the mega-development projects that have been launched in the Kingdom, including Qiddiya, Neom, the Red Sea Project, and the Amaala Project.

Gouyette also expressed his appreciation for the historic status of the Tabuk region, and visited Tabuk University where he learned about the campus and its 16 faculties, which host more than 25,000 students who, he said, will play important roles in shaping the country’s future.

He also commended Saudi Arabia for the vital role it plays in achieving stability in the world, politically and economically, with particular reference to the Kingdom’s preparations to host the 15th annual G-20 Leaders’ Summit next year.

Underlining the importance of the historic relationship between the countries, the envoy said that as part of efforts to strengthen bilateral ties France recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of late King Faisal’s visit to Paris. Following his meeting with French President Charles de Gaulle in 1967, relations between the countries evolved through a series of high-level visits, including two trips to France by King Khalid, in 1978 and 1981. The first French president to visit the Kingdom was Valery Giscard d’Estaing, in 1977. He returned twice, in 1980 and 1981. King Fahd embarked on two official trips to France, in 1984 and 1987, and King Abdullah also visited twice, in 1985 and 1999. French President Jacques Chirac came to the Kingdom in 1997, and again in 2001 and 2006.

The increasingly close relationship between the two nations was also evident in the fact that former French President Francois Hollande paid four visits to the Kingdom following his election in 2012. His final official visit, in May 2015, was particularly historic; in addition to meeting King Salman and other senior officials, he was invited to attend the 15th meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a rare honor for a foreign leader. This month, France also marked the first anniversary of the visit by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in April 2018.


Sporting glory: How Saudi Arabia raised its game

Updated 23 September 2019

Sporting glory: How Saudi Arabia raised its game

  • The groundwork for today’s success was laid in the 1970s

DUBAI: Many Saudis look back on the 1970s as a time of unprecedented development when sport, along with other aspects of life in the Kingdom, enjoyed rapid growth.

A government push to improve sports organization and boost participation in international competitions led to Saudi Arabia making its Olympic debut at the 1972 Munich Games. It marked the first time the Saudi flag was raised at the opening ceremony, although the Kingdom had been part of the International Olympic Committee since 1965. Saudi Arabia also participated in the first Arabian Gulf Cup in 1970,  and made its debut at the Pan Arab Games in 1976 and at the Asian Games two years later.

Also in the 1970s, the Kingdom attracted foreign players to its football teams, including Brazil’s Roberto Rivellino, who played for Riyadh’s Al-Hilal.

Mohammed Al-Kharashy, a former manager of the Saudi national football team, told Arab News that in the 1970s, “there was a lot of funding to improve sports facilities to the highest level. More focus was put on international participation in football and many other sports.”

Although sport was part of Saudi culture, its official development can be traced back to Interior Minister Prince Abdullah bin Faisal Al-Saud, who created the Department of Sport in the Interior in 1952.

OLYMPICS 1972

The first Saudis to represent the Kingdom at the Olympics

Men’s 100m Mansour Farhan Al-Gegd

Men’s 1,500m Naser Al-Safraa

Men’s 5,000m Abdallah Rouei Al-Mabrouk

Men’s 4 × 100m relay Mohammed Al-Dosary, Mansour Farhan Al-Gegd, Bilal Said, Saad Khalil Al-Dosary

Sporting development gained momentum with the introduction of the First Development Plan in 1970. A network of sports and athletics facilities was established along with recreational programs and sporting clubs for the Kingdom’s youth. These included federations for tennis, basketball, martial arts, handball, fencing, swimming, shooting and archery. The mandate of the General Presidency of Youth Welfare in 1974 was “to get as many people interested and involved in these activities as possible,” according to a statement published by the Saudi Embassy in the US.

While sporting standards in the Kingdom have improved dramatically, women’s participation is a more recent phenomenon. In 2003, the first women’s basketball team in Saudi Arabia was formed by Lina Al-Maeena. Three years later, she co-founded the Jeddah United Sporting Company, to encourage the development of female athletes; it now has a football club for women. In 2010, equestrian Dalma Rushdi Malhas became the first female athlete from Saudi Arabia to compete at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, winning a bronze medal.

Saudi Arabia sent its first women’s team to compete in the 2012 London Olympics. The team included Wojdan Shaherkani in judo and 800-meter runner Sarah Al-Attar. In 2016, Al-Attar, Lubna Al-Omair, Cariman Abu Al-Jadail and Wujud Fahmi represented Saudi Arabia at the Summer Games in Brazil.

In 2017, the Kingdom announced that public schools would begin offering physical education for girls as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reforms.