Riyadh: Sport in Saudi Arabia is undergoing a renaissance, as a result of which we are at the dawn of a golden age for sport in the Kingdom, according to Rasha Al-Khamis, vice president of the Saudi Arabian Boxing Federation.
Al-Khamis, who is also a board member of the Asian Boxing Federation and a strategic consultant for global consultancy Ernst & Young on Saudi Vision 2030’s quality of life initiatives, was speaking during an interview with Arab News podcast The Mayman Show.
“I mainly focus on the media and entertainment sector,” she told host Hussam Al-Mayman. “Under the media and entertainment sector there is sports, culture and the arts, entertainment and tourism. We do transformation projects for the government in line with Vision 2030.”
Vision 2030 is Saudi Arabia’s project to develop and diversify the national economy. Many of the projects in the sectors she mentioned revolve around strategy, governance, operating models and strategy, said Al-Khamis.
“This is mainly what I’m doing with Ernst & Young but … my part-time thing is the Boxing Federation,” she added. “I’m a vice president of the Saudi Boxing Federation, and a member of the board of directors of the Asian Boxing Federation, and I spearhead the women’s committee.”
The women’s committee operates under the auspices of the Arab Boxing Federation.
“Almost since 1980, they’ve had the Arab Boxing Federation and recently they’ve established the new women’s committee,” said Al-Khamis. “This includes 21 Arab countries and this year we’re planning to host the first boxing competition for Arab women, in Saudi Arabia.”
In the past few years the Kingdom has increasingly played host to a wide range of top international sporting events, and Al-Khamis praised this development and the effects it is having on the country.
“I think these big events do have a major impact on the (sports) ecosystem and boxing,” she said. “And … I believe that with the direction of Vision 2030 — and with the leadership support (from) King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the minister of sports, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki — they’ve been doing a major uplift when it comes to the sports ecosystem.”
The sports scene is undergoing a very strategic overhaul in order that it might flourish, said Al-Khamis.
“There are plenty of levers that have been supporting not only boxing but all the other 96 federations,” she added. “If you take a look at the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, at this stage they’ve been supporting all 97 federations.”
The strategy to support sport in Saudi Arabia is a critical one, she added.
“They’re actually looking at two angles: the operational level and the strategy level,” said Al-Khamis. “And then (there is) the High-Performance Athletes Institute. They’re actually attracting really great, elite athletes, to start supporting them and honing their skills.”