Zakaria Virk, Editor
Last month a first-ever boxing match took place in Diriya (outside Riyadh) in the custom-built stadium with a 15,000 capacity between Britain’s Anthony Joshua and Mexican Andy Ruiz which was called Clash of Dunes. Joshua won this match on points thus earning 60 million pounds. Saudi Arabia paid $50 million in fee to bring this match.
The interesting thing about this was that the host of this event was Adnan Virk of DAZN TV in the US. His parents immigrated to Canada from Chenab Nagar 48 years ago. Adnan is a sports anchor having previously worked in the television industry in Canada.
It appears S. Arabia is fast becoming center of global sports. In January 2020 annual motor racing rally will be held called Paris-Dakar rally. Also this month Spanish Super Cup tournament is taking place in which four Spanish soccer teams are taking part Barcelona vs Rial Madrid. It is expected the income from these matches in the next three years will be 35 million Euros. In February 2020 horse racing will take place with prize money of $20 million. In March 2020 European women gold tournament will be held in the country. Other global sports event slated are Formula E motor racing, European golf, and Spanish Super cup football.
The entry of S. Arabia which boasts the Middle East’s biggest economy and the Gulf region’s largest population, into the sports bidding market could have the significant impact. In doing so S. Arabia is following in the footsteps of Qatar and UAE, which have invested billions of dollars to make their mark on the international sports. Petro dollars are luring superstars and top events. In December 3 day MDL Beast dance festival was latest addition to flourishing festival scene.
The impact of global sports is notable in soccer, from the decision to award Qatar 2022 World Cup to the millions of dollars Abu Dhabi and Doha (Qatar) have spent transforming Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain soccer clubs. But it’s also having repercussions across motorsports, tennis, golf and boxing. Qatar is spending $200 billion on infrastructure associated with soccer World Cup. Abu Dhabi’s Formula One track is the centerpiece of $40 billion development of YAS Island. S. Arabia plans to pour billions of dollars into its Qiddiya sports and entertainment project which will have a motor sports complex and Olympic style city near Riyadh.
S. Arabia is trying to diversify its economy, more spending in the country, and to create a positive image which has been badly tarnished after Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Istanbul. Any citizen can be detained without just cause, and those who talk about human rights are imprisoned. Although women are getting more rights like the recent move women in Saudi Arabia will no longer need to use separate entrances from men or sit behind partitions at restaurants. Some have called it “sports wash” in view of poor human rights record.
The development of sports is also viewed as important in the creation of more entertainment options for the youth population and battling high obesity levels.
For S. Arabia holding global sports events is the mandate within the Vision 2030 project.