RIYADH: In a wide-ranging interview for the latest episode of Frankly Speaking, Saudi Arabia’s Minster of Sports, HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal spoke to Arab News’s Frank Kane on the challenges and opportunities of turning the kingdom into a sporting nation, and a destination for international sporting events.
The minister also stressed the positive and influential contribution of the industry to the wellbeing in Saudi society through its inclusion of women and contributions to the country’s GDP.
Answering a question on what the kingdom can do more to prove the repeated western media accusations of “sports washing” wrong, Prince Abdulaziz explained that hosting international sporting events is a part of Vision 2030’s wide ranging strategy that aims first and foremost to benefit Saudi Arabia.
“Call it whatever you want to call it, but this (vision 2030) is a strategy that has been launched, that is ongoing, that is changing social life within the Kingdom,” he said during the interview.
“We've seen the first tourist visa happening because of a Formula E event that happened in 2018 which launched which became a tourist visa.”
As for the economical impact of sports, which as per HRH is an integral part of Vision 2030, he said “contribution to the GDP in 2016 was SAR2.4 billion ($640 billion), today it is SAR6.5 billion ($1.7 billion) in 2019”
And as for social impact of athleticism, Prince Abdulaziz said that “All of our programs today that we do in the ministry of sports and the Federation is all about diversity and inclusion.”
“They’re [Women] finding support also from the the players and their families. Things are changing and things are changing to the positive and we have to make sure that it changes in the right way.”
Prince Abdulaziz also stressed on separation sports from politics. When asked about if Saudi Arabia will participate in Qatar’s 2022 World Cup if it (the kingdom) qualifies, he said: “Our national team goes there and their national team comes here so that's not going to be an issue hurting our performance.”
The minister’s comments were echoed by the Vice President of the Olympic Committee Prince Fahad bin Jalawi bin Abdulaziz, who spoke separately in Riyadh with Arab News Assistant Editor-in-Chief Noor Nugali about Saudi Arabia’s bid and efforts to host the 2030 Asian Games.
When asked if the kingdom would welcome athletes from countries it has no diplomatic ties with, Prince Fahad said: “we already hosted a lot of international events and Asian events and there are participants from countries we don’t have diplomatic relations with. We’re talking about sports and sport people are welcome to come to Saudi Arabia in any event.”
Watch the full episode here: