BarcelonaKilian Jornet has been highly critical of Saudi Arabia’s nomination to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games, which was announced on Tuesday, despite months of speculation about the possibility. As announced by the Saudi Minister of Sports, Abdulaziz bin Turki, the resort de Trojena, located in the futuristic city of Neom, on the shores of the Red Sea, will finally host the competition.
Just as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) remains undecided about where the 2030 Winter Olympics will be hosted, the snow sports industry has greeted with a mixture of disbelief and interest the statements from government spokesmen Saudi Arabia, which wants to enter this field strongly despite the fact that the country does not have a ski slope right now. In a land where it very occasionally snows on the mountaintops and has the occasional cold night in the desert, the Riyadh government believes that new technologies and a commitment to artificial snow will allow them to host the Asian Winter Games in year 2029. But that’s not all, because if they get away with it, it’s worth aspiring to bring the Winter Olympics to an Arab country for the first time.
This choice has deeply outraged a reference in winter sports, such as Kilian Jornet. The Catalan mountain runner has exploded on social networks with a message in which he states that: “The Olympic Council of Asia and the IOC only care about p… money or are they geniuses and know that the year 2029 is not there will be snow nowhere and skiing will only be practiced on sand.”
In this way, Jornet cries out against the multi-million dollar Trojena project. When Saudi Arabia unveiled it in March, it hoped to attract hundreds of thousands of tourists with the idea of offering an experience that might seem unthinkable: combining snow skiing with the arid sand dunes of the Arab country’s desert. The Catalan athlete, who already supported the platform against the Pyrenees-Barcelona 2030 Winter Games, could not contain his indignation.
No tradition in winter sports
The Saudi government, criticized for its lack of respect for human rights and its reticence, has joined the policy of its regional rivals, such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, to use sport to improve its image and strengthen its role in international politics. The turnaround of the past five years, led by Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has seen the Saudis host F-1 races, aspire to host a host of tournaments and spark a crisis within the golf world by creating a second circuit professional that attracts the best players at the drop of a hat. Not forgetting to have brought home the Spanish Super Cup of football. Now the Saudis have set their sights on winter sports.
In fact, this is a region without any kind of tradition in sports of this type. The Saudis had never sent an athlete to a Winter Olympic date until this past Beijing Games, when skier Fayik Abdi took part in the supergiant using his mastery of skiing after years living in Europe.