Saudi Arabia sees hosting an Olympics as its “ulti-mate goal” in a growing sports portfolio, its sports minister told AFP, while rejecting criticism of the kingdom over its rights record.
Investing in sport is part of a multi-pronged strategy approved six years ago to diversify the oil-reliant economy, under de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 36.
Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal spoke to AFP in the Red Sea city of Jeddah ahead of the heavyweight boxing clash in which Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk beat Anthony Joshua of Britain in the early hours of Sunday.
In 2034, the capital Riyadh will host the Asian Games, a large-scale multi-sports event that Prince Abdulaziz said could foreshadow a bid for the Summer Olympics.
“Our main focus now is the 2034 (Asian Games),” which will take place two years after Brisbane, Australia hosts the 2032 Summer Games, he said.
“We’re open to discuss with the IOC about this (Olympics) for the future. I think Saudi Arabia has showcased that we can host such events”.
He added: “Definitely, the Olympics would be an ultimate goal for us… But we’re open to that and I think we can.”
Last year the kingdom joined the F1 circuit, and the state Public Investment Fund is bankrolling LIV Golf, which has lured a swathe of top players with hefty signing bonuses and $25-million purses.
Saudi Arabia is also bidding to host the 2027 Asian Cup and the women’s version in 2026, along with the 2029 Winter Asian Games at NEOM, a futuristic megacity project on the Red Sea.—APP