Saudi to host Asian Winter Games in NEOM megacity

SAUDI Arabia was chosen on Tuesday to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at a $500 billion futuristic megacity in the de­sert that planners say will fea­ture a year-round winter sports complex.

“The deserts and moun­tains of Saudi Arabia will soon be a playground for winter sports,” the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) 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 170 kilometres 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 zero celsius 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.

The Asian Winter Games include competitions for skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey and figure skating — 47 events in all, 28 on snow and 10 on ice, the OCA said.

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