October 19 – Saudi Arabia’s vice-minister of sport has added his voice to countering critics who accuse the country of using its sovereign wealth fund to engage in “sportswashing” to deflect from its human rights record.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said last month he does not care about allegations of sportswashing and that he will continue funding sport.
Bader Alkadi echoed those comments at the Leaders in Sport conference in London and said the vast investment in sport was to improve the lives of Saudi people.
“Well, that would have been a difficult question (sportswashing) before the crown prince answered it. It’s not difficult anymore,” Alkadi told his audience.
“So definitely whatever we do in sports, we do it for our people. And the numbers speak for themselves in terms of the growth in mass participation in terms of the focus on elite athletes.”
As regards Saudi Arabia’s bid for the 2034 World Cup – virtually a shoo-in – Alkadi said his country wanted to experience what Qatar enjoyed last year.
Saudi Arabia is seeking to host the showpiece tournament after FIFA invited bids from Asia and Oceania, setting a deadline of October 31 for formal expressions of interest. Saudi Arabia are the only country to have submitted their interest to date.
Qatar was the first country in the Middle East to host the World Cup and Alkadi lauded the host nation despite strained diplomatic relations between the two Gulf states in recent years.
“Like the pride you had in the UK when you hosted the Olympics, like how proud we are about us beating Argentina at the World Cup…. And Qatar – we’re proud of what other countries have done delivering an excellent World Cup,” he said.
When asked about the fan experience at Qatar which included no alcohol being served in stadiums, a decision made a week before the tournament began, Alkadi replied: “That’s something honestly we applaud our colleagues and Qatar for, for going through and definitely proving that it is a possibility (and it) is something that we would want to repeat.”
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org