Saudi Arabia has been chosen to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games in a city that hasn’t been built yet. The under-construction $500 billion futuristic desert megacity will feature a year-round winter sports complex say the planners.
“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.
NEOM, described in the Financial Times as “a wall, driven through an uninhabitable desert, hermetically sealed and reliant solely on technology to make it liveable” has been viewed as either futuristic or dystopian. It includes the possibility of 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 (105 miles) of mountain and desert terrain.
The Asian Winter Games will take place in Trojena, an area of NEOM “where winter temperatures drop below zero Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) 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.
One of 10 regions within NEOM, it is situated about 50 kilometres inland from the Gulf of Aqaba in an area that, like much of the rest of the kingdom, receives very little rainfall.
Prince Mohammed, chair of NEOM’s board, has said it “will redefine mountain tourism for the world by creating a place based on the principles of ecotourism, highlighting our efforts to preserve nature and enhance the community’s quality of life”.
More about NEOM here