JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sport has laid out plans to promote and advance a host of sports, helping them to rival the profile of football and other popular activities.
In a press conference on Sunday, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki bin Faisal, the sports minister and former racing driver, announced a program to expand sporting activities in the Kingdom and revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic had caused a delay in the long-mooted plans.
“Our field has in the past lacked participation in certain sports, with football the only sport that clubs focused on, and this unfortunately resulted in the loss of potential talent, denying other athletes the chance to practice their favorite sports,” said Prince Abdul Aziz.
“For this, a new start was needed,” he added.
“Thankfully, Saudi Vision 2030 is supporting this expansion. The vision also encourages people in the Kingdom to make exercise a part of their daily lives. This will reflect well on them with regards to health, and socially and economically.”
Since the vision’s launch five years ago, the Kingdom has already met many of its targets in various sporting fields. Participation in sporting activities among the population has risen from 13 percent to 19 percent, and the number of sporting federations, committees and associations has increased from 32 to 92.
“In addition, more than 3,000 people and 225 teams have participated in the domestic sports competitions designated for local residents,” he said.
In women’s sports, new competitions have been organized and hosted, along with the establishment of 25 Saudi national teams. In addition, 17 Saudi women have been appointed as members across sporting federations and associations.
The sports sector has also contributed significantly to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product, which grew from SR2.4 billion ($640 million) to SR6.5 billion, an increase of 170 percent in the two years.
To ensure this growth, the sports ministry has helped initiate partnerships with the private sector, including organizing and facilitating licensing procedures in sports halls and centers. The ministry has so far issued 1,549 licenses.