Saudi desert megacity to host Asian Winter Games

2.2 Saudi Arabia
The design plan for the 500m tall parallel structures, known collectively as “The Line”, in the heart of the Red Sea megacity NEOM. (File photo; NEOM/AFP)

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia was chosen Tuesday to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at an under-construction $500 billion futuristic desert megacity that planners say will feature a year-round winter sports complex.اضافة اعلان

“The deserts and mountains of Saudi Arabia will soon be a playground for winter sports,” the Olympic Council of Asia said in a statement on the decision made during its general assembly meeting in Phnom Penh.

The Saudi bid was “unanimously approved”, the statement said, noting that the megacity known as NEOM will be the first West Asian city to host the event.

First announced in 2017, NEOM has consistently raised eyebrows for proposed flourishes like flying taxis and robot maids, even as architects and economists have questioned its feasibility.

In July, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled plans for a project within NEOM known as The Line, two parallel mirror-encased skyscrapers extending over 170km of mountain and desert terrain.

The Asian Winter Games are slated to take place in Trojena, an area of NEOM “where winter temperatures drop below 0°C, and year-round temperatures are generally 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the region”, according to the project’s website.

Set to be completed in 2026, Trojena will include year-round skiing, a manmade freshwater lake, chalets, mansions, and ultra-luxury hotels, the website says.

One of 10 regions within NEOM, it is situated about 50km inland from the Gulf of Aqaba in an area that, like much of the rest of the kingdom, receives very little rainfall.

Prince Mohammed, chair of NEOM’s board, has said it “will redefine mountain tourism for the world by creating a place based on the principles of ecotourism, highlighting our efforts to preserve nature and enhance the community’s quality of life”.

Trojena is meant to be surrounded by a nature reserve, something developers say they are trying to be mindful of as they proceed with the project. “You cut a new road through that environment and you’ll never repair it,” Philip Gullett, Trojena’s executive director, said in an interview on its website. “We are taking an approach whereby you realize the value that there is in the flora, fauna and animals.”

Plans for Trojena also include The Vault, a so-called vertical village that Gullett said resembles The Line, by “minimizing the land take — and maximizing walkability — rather than spreading all those elements out across a large space.”

The Asian Winter Games include competitions for skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey, and figure skating — 47 events in all, 28 on snow and 19 on ice, the OCA said.

Saudi Arabia has drawn criticism for alleged “sports washing” — hosting high-profile boxing, Formula 1 and other contests to divert attention from its human rights record.

An Egyptian official said in September that Egypt, Greece, and Saudi Arabia were in talks on a proposal to jointly host the 2030 World Cup football tournament.

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