ROME: A panel discussion focusing on the dramatic changes underway in Saudi Arabia has likened the nation’s transformation to a “renaissance.”
Leading figures in media, sports and international relations gathered in the Italian capital to shed light on developments in the Kingdom.
Discussions explored Saudi Arabia’s evolving media landscape, with a special focus on the sports sector and women’s empowerment, as well as its alignment with the Vision 2030 initiative.
Noor Nugali, assistant editor-in-chief of Arab News, set the stage by drawing parallels between the Kingdom’s transformation and a renaissance, akin to the transformative period Italy witnessed centuries ago.
“The changes that are happening, they’re happening on a broad scale,” Nugali told the panel.
“They’re changing not only my country, but every country that surrounds it,” she said, adding that public acceptance and eagerness to witness these changes are a key aspect of what she described as the Kingdom-wide “renaissance.”
The panel discussion coincided with a Saudi Village event highlighting the Kingdom’s culture, heritage and attractions.
Set in the neoclassical building of Casina Valadier in Villa Borghese, the historic park in the heart of Rome, Saudi Village is showcasing the very best of the Kingdom. Over five days, starting from Sept. 25, residents of Rome will be able to explore Saudi Arabia’s culture, history, heritage, cuisine, tourist attractions and future aspirations.
The panel discussion also shed light on developments in the sports industry, underscoring its pivotal role within Vision 2030, not only for its contribution to the country’s economy, but also for its crucial role in supporting social transformation.
Nugali highlighted how the remarkable changes in the industry, from a surge in female business ownership to the emergence of Saudi women in sports leagues, reflect profound societal changes accompanying these developments.
Discussing collaborations between the Kingdom and Italy in media and sports, Gianni Merlo, president of the International Sports Press Association, said that gender equality in sports benefits everyone.
“When I was in Saudi, I was very surprised to see that the (sporting) prizes given to men and women were exactly the same,” he said.
“This is a fantastic approach that even our countries have not yet implemented, signifying that women will be more interested in investing in sports.”
During the panel discussion, Merlo highlighted the collaborations between Saudi Arabia and Italy, underlining the positive impact of sports diplomacy on fostering international relationships.
The exchange of experiences, especially in sports journalism, is a promising avenue for strengthening ties, he said.
Saudi Village, with Arab News as a media partner, was organized by the Saudi Embassy in Italy on the occasion of Saudi National Day and to celebrate 90 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Several Italian and Saudi companies were represented at the event, which was also attended by representatives of the Kingdom’s ministries of investment, sports and education, as well as the Saudi Tourism Authority and the Royal Commission of AlUla.
Paola Di Prospero, a representative of the Saudi Embassy in Rome, told Arab News that the Saudi Village event offers people in Rome a significant opportunity to learn more about Saudi culture and heritage, strengthening relations between Italy and Saudi Arabia.
“This year we took a different approach. Rather than hosting a private ceremony with institutional representatives, we decided to open it to the public,” she said.
“It’s a people-to-people event aimed at drawing the Italian population toward the Kingdom and its wonders.”