Saudi sports minister rejects sportswashing allegations, inviting critics to take a closer look

December 8 – Saudi Arabia’s sports minister has rejected claims of ‘sportswashing’ against his country and, just like Qatar before last year’s tournament, has defended the Saudis’ right to stage the World Cup.

Critics say Saudi Arabia’s massive spending on sport is nothing more than an attempt to deflect attention away from its highly questionable human rights record.

But speaking to the BBC in Jeddah, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal said people should do their homework before casting aspersions over the country’s plans to host the 2034 World Cup.

“A lot of the people that accuse us of that haven’t been to Saudi, or seen what we are doing,” he said.

“We’ve hosted more than 85 global events and we’ve delivered on the highest level. We want to attract the world through sports. Hopefully, by 2034, people will have an extraordinary World Cup.”

With the Saudis soon to stage the Club World Cup, Prince Abdulaziz said accusations of ‘sportswashing’ were “very shallow”.

“Twenty million of our population are below the age of 30, so we need to get them engaged – we are playing our role to develop sports within the world and to be part of the international community,” he said.

“Any country has room for improvement, no-one’s perfect. We acknowledge that and these events help us reform to a better future for everyone.”

It is widely assumed that because of the heat, Saudi Arabia will be the second country to stage the World Cup in winter.

But Prince Abdulaziz said organisers were “definitely studying” whether it could be staged in summer.

“Why not see what the possibilities are to do it in the summer? Whether it is summer or winter it doesn’t matter for us, as long as we make sure that we [deliver] the right atmosphere to host such an event,” he said.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1709386173labto1709386173ofdlr1709386173owedi1709386173sni@w1709386173ahsra1709386173w.wer1709386173dna1709386173



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