Skiing in the desert? Nothing in the game is more ridiculous

What better sums up the perpetual decline of modern life than the news that the 2029 Asian Winter Games will be held in Saudi Arabia?

Skiing in the desert? why not? The only way to cope these days is to tackle the slow collapse of the global financial system or watch Erling Hollande play football.

Even by the standards of the contemporary news cycle, hosting an event that represents the coldest weather in one of the world’s most prominent bread-rich nations should raise eyebrows.

Winter sports conjure up certain images. Playboy music high ginkgo on the high peaks of the Alps. Eastern European teenagers wear sequins and spin a triple selcho into a piped Tchaikovsky. The Snowboard Brothers perform tricks at the Colorado Stoner Belt. A strict Scottish mum stares at a curling stone as he slides into the ring.

Anything related to camels? number?

Times have changed when it comes to the ridiculous bidding of sporting events. Could it be decades since plans to bring the Summer Olympics to Dublin, a city with no 50m swimming pool and no subway yet? The idea was laughed out of town, and the politician behind it, Fine Gael Kay Mitchell, became synonymous with a certain kind of Celtic Tiger-era glory.

The big difference these days is that grand visions can happen if you have the fossil fuel wealth of an ambitious Arab tyrant. In fact, when you hear about the things Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman has planned for NEOM, the futuristic $500 billion city that will host the 2029 Asian Winter Games, the Bedouin bobsleigh sounds pretty cool.

The crown prince dreamed up NEOM shortly after ousting several of his cousins ​​and uncles to become de facto ruler following his father King Salman’s ascension to the throne in 2015. The economy was a simple business: selling oil to the world and to distribute money to a large group of royal sponge owners who lived a life. Wandering debauchery is far removed from the moral constraints of the desert kingdom.

Even before he came to power, Mohammed bin Salman presented himself as a modernizer, storming the boards of Wall Street and Silicon Valley and investing billions in Saudi Arabia in hopes of re-establishing its status as a modern economy . the outside.

But he lamented that the West saw Saudi Arabia as a big and stupid moneylender and showed no interest in paying it off by investing in the kingdom. Outsiders hate the idea of ​​hardened clerics beheading people because they want an endless supply of cash. That is why Mohammed bin Salman dreamed of NEOM, a Greek word meaning “new” and “future”, located in an arid region near the Jordanian border inhabited by only a few unfortunate Bedouin tribes.

NEOM will be far from the stupid bureaucracy and fanatical Wahhabi clerics in the big cities, which means Mohammed bin Salman can do whatever he wants. It will be a cutting-edge technology haven and a thriving hub for business and innovation. Located in the heart of the city is a 100-mile stretch of city called The Line, a narrow stretch of futuristic development bordered by two tall glass skyscrapers.

Glow-in-the-dark beaches, flying cars and robot attendants will enable people to snorkel in the Red Sea or rock climb in the Sarawat Mountains. He wanted a full satellite floating into the night sky and desalination plants to overcome the fact that there was no real clean water in the area. Western bankers and investment advisers lined up to tell him how wonderful everything was.

Of course, this whole ridiculous empire is nothing new to this church’s readers, who have seen Saudi Arabia upstage the entire world of sports in recent years. It started with Formula 1, horse racing and boxing, escalated to an outrageous, earthquake-damaged golf tour and the purchase of a 130-year-old English football club, and now includes a potential bid to host the 2030 World Cup. the news this week is that the cream of Lugers in Asia is about to slide into the sandy wastes of the Arabian Peninsula, it’s not as hyped as it once was.

All of this is happening alongside brutal opposition to Saudi Arabia, ongoing human rights abuses and allegations of sports-laundering that are hardly a problem. Mohammed bin Salman is a great, modern visionary who does not defy internal opposition.

The spirit of the story is driven by the sheer vanity of one man and the relentless tenderness of his greedy fellow travelers, giving it a certain destructive quality. Five years since its inception and three years before its planned completion, there has been little progress in construction on NEOM. The Sarawat Mountains, which will host the Asian Winter Games in 2029, usually get a light dusting of snow, requiring man-made production beyond what experts believe is possible. Regional analysts have begun to speculate whether the project’s recklessness could actually bankrupt Saudi Arabia.

It was reported last month that a left-wing Israeli newspaper had sparked outrage in Saudi royal circles. The anonymous source told the paper: “The general concern is that he will become like the Shah of Iran, making plans that are incredibly out of touch with reality and no one will ask him to pay attention.” The report notes that “the last Shah of Iran, a Western-style authoritarian ruler who promoted authoritarian practices and modernization reforms, was overthrown in 1979 during the Iranian Islamic Revolution.”

It is unclear how the fortunes of the Saudi speed skating team may be affected.

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