Saudi Arabia has revealed that hosting an edition of the Olympics is its «ultimate goal» while batting away accusations of sportwashing at the weekend.
Saturday saw the Saudi capital Jeddah receive the boxing community for Oleksandr Usyk’s second consecutive win over Anthony Joshua to retain the unified WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles.
Putting on the bout represents part of a plan that the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled six years ago in order to further boost his country’s economy and international reputation.
And while this has had the Middle Eastern nation face accusations of sportswashing and attempting to divert attention away from its alleged human rights abuses through putting on huge events such as boxing shows and the F1 grand prix, the Saudis are planning even bigger things as revealed by Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal to the AFP.
«Our main focus now is the 2034 (Asian Games),» which will take place two years after Brisbane, Australia hosts the 2032 Summer Games,» said Prince Abdulaziz to the French press agency.
«We’re open to discuss with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) about this (the Olympics) for the future.
«I think Saudi Arabia has showcased that we can host such events,» he further claimed.
Prince Abdulaziz also went on to say that: «Definitely, the Olympics would be an ultimate goal for us… But we’re open to that and I think we can.»
With Saudi Arabia coming under fire for incidents such as the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which the Crown Prince was directly accused of ordering, and for cracking down on activists whom have been jailed or banned from leaving the country, Prince Abdulaziz suggested that criticisms of sportswashing are inaccurate and aimed at a land that is ever-changing.
«We’re progressing. We’re moving towards a better society, we’re moving towards a better quality of life, [and] a better country for the future,» he insisted.
«And the facts show that hosting these events benefit our people and benefit these changes that are happening and benefits [those] living in Saudi.»
As for the LIV Golf league, backed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) that the Crown Prince heads and which bought Premier League football club Newcastle United last year, Prince Abdulaziz confessed that he wasn’t expecting such a backlash that has seen the PGA tour at war with the breakaway championship and players that want to join it.
«Not really, honestly,» he answered. «I think that if there’s a benefit for the sport, then why not, whoever does it.
«If it benefits the athletes, if it benefits the sport, [and] attracts more attention to the sport, attracts more people that want to participate in the sport, that will grow the sport for everyone,» Prince Abdulaziz concluded.
Before it launches a bid for the Olympics, Saudi Arabia is also trying to host the 2027 Asian Cup and its female counterpart in 2026 in football plus the Winter Asian Games in 2029.