A yet-to-be built resort in the Saudi Arabian desert has been selected as the host of the 2029 Asian Winter Games, the country’s government said.
Saudi Arabia says the TROJENA winter resort, to be built in a mountainous region of the kingdom, will offer year-round skiing and outdoor adventure and will be finished by 2026.
It will be part of the 26,500 square km $770 billion NEOM development, led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
“With the unlimited support by the Saudi leadership & HRH Crown Prince to the sport sector we are proud to announce we have won the bid to host AWG TROJENA2029 as the first country in west Asia,” Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal said on Twitter.
NEOM CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr offered his thanks to the Crown Prince and said that, despite being located in the desert, the TROJENA resort will create a “winter atmosphere”.
“TROJENA will have an outstanding infrastructure to create the winter atmosphere in the heart of the desert, to make the Winter Games edition in TROJENA an unprecedented global event,” he wrote on Twitter.
The awarding of the Winter Games has already attracted criticism for alleged ‘sportswashing’, as Saudi Arabia, and its royal family, have been linked to alleged human rights abuses such as the death of Saudi dissident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah wrote on Twitter:
“The sportswashing continues: Two days after the anniversary of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia says it will host the… *checks notes* .. Asian Winter Games.”
MacIntosh Ross from the Sports and Human Rights Lab wrote on Twitter:
“The Saudi sportswashing machine rolls on.”
As well as outdoor skiing, the TROJENA development is slated to offer a man-made freshwater lake and a nature reserve.
NEOM has been heavily marketed on social media in Australia, particularly for its latest project, The Line, a narrow zero-carbon desert oasis with mirrors as exterior walls reaching 500 metres high.
MBS says NEOM will have capacity for 450,000 people by 2026 and nine million by 2045.
But there’s scepticism around the feasibility of the ambitious project.
Rodger Shanahan of the Lowy Institute told SBS News in September that the NEOM project is “technically not achievable at the moment”.
“Is it going to be technically achievable in our lifetime? From what I’ve seen of it, it would stretch the boundaries.”