The organization of masters in Saudi Arabia. Rivalry with neighbors and accusations of “polishing the image”

The sudden decision to give Saudi Arabia the organization of the Asian Winter Games for the year 2029 is subject to a double logic, between the use of sports competitions as a front to polish the image, and the policy of international sports bodies that are rushing forward in their desperate search for countries to host their events, according to a report prepared by AFP.

It is hard to imagine the huge gap between organizing ski competitions in Japan’s “Sapporo”, which hosted the first edition of the Winter Masters in 1986 and the last in 2017, and holding it in the mountainous desert of Trogina, which is fifty kilometers from the coast of the Red Sea and has not been visited by a single skier before.

Frenchman Johan Cleary, the Olympic runner-up in the downhill competition, expressed his regret over this and told the channel “Arm C” on Tuesday that it was “dramatic for our sport”, while the secretary general of the International Ski Federation, Michel Fillon , said he was “surprised” by the Olympic Council’s decision.

At the end of 2021, Dubai hosted the slalom competition for the Beijing Winter Olympics in a cooled hall of a large shopping mall, and the temperature outside was 30 degrees Celsius.

But many questions are raised about holding these games in Saudi Arabia, which faces the problem of climate change, with an expected rise in temperatures, through the poor diversion of local water resources and the creation of artificial slopes.

“Attention”

But to see Saudi Arabia progressing on the world sports map is not surprising in itself, given the investments it has made, whether through Formula One racing, cycling, organizing international golf competitions or also in football through the English club Newcastle United for sale, as well as preparation for the presentation of the FIFA World Cup. Soccer for the year 2030.

Behind every project to be achieved there is a specific goal. The goal of the Asian Games is “above all economic”, according to AFP, Raphael Le Maguaric, a specialist in the geopolitics of sport in the Gulf states at the University of Tours in France.

The researcher believes that there is an ongoing hidden competition with the Qatari and Emirati neighbors, the regional pioneers in sports diplomacy, and that Riyadh “essentially wants to shed light on its future city” NEOM.

The multi-billion dollar NEOM complex, imposed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is so far nothing more than an attractive design. But its promoters want to launch it in 2026, with year-round ski slopes, an artificial lake, palaces and luxury hotels.

“There are many unknowns about the ice and getting the whole project done,” warns Le Maguirec.

From a climatic point of view, very low amounts of precipitation (less than 50 mm per year according to various sources) reinforce the hypothesis that snow does not fall naturally even in the middle of winter.

But “at this point,” Saudi Arabia’s award of the Games is “above all a distraction,” and must be understood “in an entirely regional context,” in Le Maguaric’s estimation.

By hosting the Asian Games, the kingdom does not seek to appeal to the European public, but to attract the attention of the wealthy classes in the Middle East, Russia, India and China, “with a neoliberal logic and a lack of ideas about the environment or human rights.”

On the other hand, the choice of the Olympic Council of Asia may seem surprising, as sports bodies increasingly weigh their reputations on the social and environmental impacts of their competitions, which have been carefully identified by researchers and NGOs.

In the absence of another candidate, “the Olympic Council of Asia cannot be so meticulous and decide that it is better to go to Saudi Arabia than to go nowhere,” said Pim Verschoren, a sports geopolitics specialist. said the University of Rennes in France. .

Japan and China organized the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and the Winter Olympics in Beijing respectively, and they abandoned the Asian Winter Games after hosting six of the first eight editions, while the Olympic Council of Asia needs countries to host the following sessions. offer.

Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday that it had won the bid to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games, which it aims to host in a mountain resort to be built in the future city of Neom on the Red Sea coast.

The Saudi Olympic Committee said that “the Olympic Council of Asia announces the victory of the Trogina 2029 bid to host the ninth Asian Winter Games during the 41st General Assembly” held in Cambodia.

According to Reuters, the development of the mountain resort of Trogina will be completed in 2026, and will feature an outdoor ski slope, a man-made freshwater lake and a nature reserve.

The Trogina project is part of the district plan in NEOM, which is located 50 km from the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba. The Trogina destination includes elevations ranging from 1,500m to 2,600m above sea level and covers an area of ​​approximately 60 square kilometers, according to the project’s website.

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