quotes Saudi soft power

18 September 2023
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Updated 18 September 2023

Saudi soft power

It is delightful to observe how Saudi Arabia is effectively exercising its soft power through the organization of numerous events and through its sponsorship of initiatives in art, culture, music, cinema, theater, literature, and sports. These activities bring great pride to all of humanity.

One of the most notable examples of this is the acquisition of renowned Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo. Known for his exceptional skills, Ronaldo now serves as a forward and captain for the Saudi Pro League Club Al-Nassr. Prior to this, he captained Portugal’s national team and played for Spanish soccer team Real Madrid.

Regarded as one of the best players of his generation, he remains loyal to Saudi Arabia, abiding by all sports regulations and statutes. His time in Saudi Arabia has been the most productive and prominent phase of his soccer career. Saudi Arabia’s soft power in sports earns him respect, encouragement, and marketability for potential team opportunities.

In 2022, 12 top tennis players participated in the Diriyah Tennis Club games. Additionally, the World Snooker Championships for the under-17 men and under-21 men and women categories took place in Riyadh in July 2023, hosted by the Saudi Billiards and Snooker Federation. There is also potential for the Saudi Basketball League to hire players from the US National Basketball Association in the near future.

Saudi local sports events draw a large international audience, reaching hundreds of thousands of people. For instance, under the Saudi Arabian Handball Federation, a remarkable match occurred between the Al-Ahli and Al-Nahda women’s teams in Hail, who put on a superb display of athleticism.

Recently, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund acquired a significant stake in the American mixed-material arts league, the Professional Fighters League — a demonstration of Saudi Arabia’s robust commitment to sports investments.

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, a Formula One motor racing competition, began in Jeddah in 2021. The 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix also took place at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. Additionally, a new sports investment company — SRJ Sports Investments — has been established to attract major global events to the kingdom. They will invest in creating new sports events, potentially through acquiring event intellectual property.

The use of Saudi soft power is not just a response to crises or challenges, but a genuine effort to harness the goodness of human hearts and minds.

Saudi Arabia’s soft power in sports is a key component of the Vision 2030 plan, which aims to diversify the Kingdom’s economic resources. It also serves as an attractive proposition for businesses. For example, the US PGA Championship recently announced a partnership with the Saudi-financed LIV Golf. The introduction of new sports, such as cricket, is another cultural novelty in Saudi soft power. Plans are underway to establish a Twenty20 cricket tournament, inspired by the successful Indian Premier League, which will greatly appeal to Asian audiences and enhance Saudi Arabia’s influence in the region.

Saudi Arabian soft power is now making its mark in the realm of arts, exemplified by the launch of the Red Sea International Film Festival in 2019. This festival not only showcases talents from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries but also provides a platform for artists from developing nations who have limited opportunities to project their work in Europe or the US. The event reflects the steady rise of the Kingdom’s burgeoning film industry, which has plans for major productions in the pipeline. The vision of the festival, as articulated by Saudi film industry pioneer Mahmoud Sabbagh, is to promote national storytellers and unique local narratives, as well as foster a sustainable and vibrant film ecosystem.

Saudi Arabia’s soft power extends to the realm of antiquity too, with the designation of Historic Jeddah, Al-Balad, as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This recognition demonstrates the global community’s acknowledgment of Saudi Arabia’s growing influence. The Kingdom has also been hosting numerous music concerts, attracting large audiences. Notably, many Egyptian singers and composers have been invited to perform, providing them with valuable opportunities for publicity and recognition.

Unfortunately, many foreign sources unfairly attack the Kingdom, suggesting that it prioritizes dominance in the art, sports, and global cultural sectors over addressing the needs of its people.

These activities, however, demonstrate Saudi Arabia’s belief in the universal right to creativity — regardless of a person’s ethnicity, language, religion, or affiliation — and their pursuit contributes to the betterment of humanity as a whole.

Critics suggesting a halt to Saudi Arabia’s soft power are short-sighted and fail to acknowledge how the Kingdom’s cultivation of an environment in which these activities thrive supports the development of other nations’ cultural resources and artistic talents.

Instead of focusing solely on military and economic strength, soft power can help prevent conflicts and curb unfair economic competition. The use of Saudi soft power is not just a response to crises or challenges, but a genuine effort to harness the goodness of human hearts and minds. Ultimately, Saudi soft power can contribute to making the world a better place for everyone.

Faisal Al-Shammeri is a political analyst. X: @Mr_Alshammeri