While many cities in France are announcing a boycott of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar for environmental reasons, the information seems parodic: Saudi Arabia, a desert country on the Arabian Peninsula, will host the 2029 Asian Winter Games, announced Wednesday, October 4 the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).
This competition is part of the Asian Games, which also include Summer Games, Martial Arts Games, Para-Asian Games and Beach Games. The Asian Games are the second largest multi-sport event in the world after the Olympics. They bring together nearly 12,000 athletes.
The Asian Winter Games include competitions in skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey and figure skating, totaling 47 events, including 28 on snow and 19 on ice, according to the Olympic Council of Asia.
Skiing in Saudi Arabia
“The deserts and mountains of Saudi Arabia will soon be a playground for winter sports”says in a press release the OCA, specifying that the decision had been taken ” unanimously “ during its general assembly in Phnom Penh. “I never believed that I would ski one day in my country”reacted Tuesday the Saudi alpine skier Fayik Abdile, quoted in the press release of the organization.
The Asian Winter Games should precisely take place in Trojena, a mountainous area “where temperatures drop below zero degrees in winter and throughout the year are generally 10 degrees lower” by the sea, the developers claim on their website, without mentioning the issue of rainfall.
The Alps in the desert
Trojena, which is expected to be completed in 2026, will include year-round ski slopes, an artificial freshwater lake, chalets, mansions and luxury hotels, according to the same source. This mountain destination must be near Neom.
Located on the shores of the Red Sea, the Neom project, worth 500 billion euros and carried by the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, has been widely talked about since the first announcement made in 2017. Architects and economists have questioned its feasibility.
A city as big as 250 times Paris
The city must be 26,500 square kilometers, or 250 times the size of Paris. Everything must be robotized, from the valets to the taxis to the cleaning staff. Neom must also have an artificial moon and phosphorescent beaches. It should force 20,000 people from the Howeitat tribe to leave a land they have occupied for centuries.
The management of the project by its leaders is also criticized. the wall street journal thus reported that the CEO of Neom would have fostered a corporate culture that “humiliated expatriates, made excessive demands and did not fight discrimination in the workplace”. According to The Economist, only two buildings have been constructed so far.
Sporting events have multiplied in recent years in Saudi Arabia, accused by NGOs of wanting to divert attention from human rights abuses in the kingdom.