Opposition Grows to Asian Winter Games Being Held in Unbuilt Saudi Resort

The International Olympic Committee, National Ski Federations, athletes, Greenpeace and others have condemned the  move. Mostly on environmental grounds, and with some opposing Saudi’s position on human rights.

The award of the 2029 Asian Winter Games to Trojena was announced last week at the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) General Assembly in Phnom Penh.

Saudi Arabia was the only country to bid for the 2029 Games.

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 £448 billion resort area is still on the drawing board and is part of the Neom project that is backed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The area has mountains rising to more than 2,600m, but sees little natural snowfall.

It aims to be constructed by 2026.

Temperatures in the area drop below zero in winter and artificial snow will need to be made alongside the natural snow.

Trojena is situated 50 kms from the Gulf of Aqaba.

Facilities planned include a ski slope, hotels and other accommodation, shops and restaurants, watersports facilities, mountain biking and a nature reserve.

It claims it will attract 700,000 visitors and 7,000 permanent residents by 2030.

See the full details in this earlier article on PlanetSKI:

“The IOC was not consulted about the OCA decision with regard to the Asian Winter Games and was not involved in the decision-making process,” said a statement from the International Olympic Committee.

“As far as the IOC is concerned, sustainability is a key pillar of Olympic Agenda 2020+5.”

The IOC aims to reduce the costs and the size of the Olympics.

“If neither of these works from a sustainability point of view, the respective events can even be held outside the Olympic host country.

“The IOC also requires organising committees to achieve climate-positive Olympic Games by 2030 at the latest.“

In France, the National Ski Federation, mayors from mountain resorts , the union of ski area operators and ski instructors have criticised the awarding of the Games.

They said it is not “what is desirable for the planet.”

They said they have been “left flabbergasted” by the plan to host the competition “in a place naturally poor in precipitation and water, where there are no ski resorts or slopes to date.”

“We can only denounce this aberrant project, which is totally opposite to what is desirable for the planet,” the French group said.

It emphasises the need for all to respect the 2015 Paris Agreement that aims to limit global warming and to manage resources and biodiversity in a sustainable way.

Saudi authorities claim that Trojena will operate on sustainable infrastructure and renewable energy.

“The deserts and mountains of Saudi Arabia will soon be a playground for winter sports,” said the Olympic Council of Asia.

The Saudi alpine skiier, Fayik Abdi, said that he “never believed I would ski in my homeland”.

The planned city contains a 160km long ‘horizontal skyscraper’ known as ‘The Line’.

The environmental group Greenpeace has also reacted and described the project as ‘dangerous’ for the environment.

“You’re changing a natural ecosystem which can have compounding impacts,” said regional campaigns manager for Greenpeace, Ahmed El Droubi.

“If you change something in one place, it may change something else in another place, and so on, and it can have impacts on neighbouring ecosystems.

“I don’t even know if we have the capacity to predict and model such impacts, and it is a very dangerous thing to do, to massively alter ecosystems in this manner.”

Critics of the Saudi regime have accused it of using sport to distract from its record on human rights  and other actions through, so-called ‘sportswashing.’

Saudi Arabia is trying to improve its international sporting presence by introducing the breakaway LIV golf series, hosting Formula 1 Grand Prix, backing Newcastle in England’s Premiership and other sporting initiatives.

Amoung the criticism of the Saudi regime is:

  • The state-ordered assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • Its role in the bombing in Yemen.
  • Harsh restrictions in place on women’s rights.
  • Its use of the death penalty.

A campaign from Saudi Arabia to host the 2030 World Cup in soccer is expected with a three-continent bid including Egypt and Greece.

Saudi Arabia is to host the 2034 Asian Games in Riyadh.

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