“The deserts and mountains of Saudi Arabia will soon be a playground for winter sports,” the organization said in a statement, adding that the decision was made “unanimously” at its general assembly in Phnom Penh.
Located on the Red Sea coast, the Neom project, worth hundreds of billions of dollars and sponsored by the powerful Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, has been the subject of much talk since it was first announced in 2017 and despite its feasibility being questioned by architects and economists.
Will there be snow?
The Asian Winter Games should be held precisely in Trojena, a mountainous sector of Neom “where temperatures drop below zero in winter and where temperatures are generally 10 degrees lower all year round”, at the edge of the sea, the organizers say on their website . without mentioning the question of precipitation.
Trojena, which is expected to be completed in 2026, will include year-round ski slopes, an artificial freshwater lake, chalets, villas and luxury hotels, according to the same source.
Mohammed bin Salman is CEO of Neom. As the de facto leader of the kingdom, he promised with this project to “redefine mountain tourism in the world” while respecting the principles of ecotourism.
Skiing, snowboarding, skating…
For his part, Neom director Nadhmi al-Nasr said Trojena will be provided with “adequate infrastructure to create a winter atmosphere in the heart of the desert and make these Winter Games an unprecedented global event”.
According to the OCA, the Asian Winter Games will include competitions in skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey and figure skating with a total of 47 events, including 28 on snow and 19 on ice.
“I never thought that I would (one day) ski in my country,” said Saudi alpine skier Fayik Abdile on Tuesday, quoted in the organization’s press release.
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On the way to the Olympic Games
Sporting events have multiplied in Saudi Arabia in recent years, which NGOs have accused of trying to divert attention from human rights abuses in the kingdom.
In a recent interview with AFP, Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal mentioned his country’s desire to one day organize the Olympic Games.
An Egyptian official told him last month that Egypt, Greece and Saudi Arabia had started talks on a possible joint bid for the 2030 FIFA World Cup.