Jeddah: Saudi Arabia sees hosting the Olympics as the “ultimate goal” in its growing sports portfolio, the sports minister told AFP. Investing in sports is part of a multifaceted strategy approved six years ago under de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 36, to diversify the oil-dependent economy. A part.

Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal speaks to AFP in the Red Sea city of Jeddah ahead of a heavyweight boxing clash in which Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk defeated Britain’s Anthony Joshua early Sunday. In 2034, the Asian Games will be held in the capital Riyadh. It is a massive multi-sport event, which Prince Abdulaziz said could portend a bid to host the Summer Olympics.

“Our main focus now is on the 2034 (Asian Games), which will be held two years after the 2032 Summer Games were held in Brisbane, Australia. I think Saudi Arabia has shown that we can host such an event.” He added: “Without a doubt, the Olympics will be the ultimate goal for us. C’mon…but we’re open to it and I think I can.”

Prince Abdulaziz said the criticism was off the mark and pointed to signs of change in the country. “We are moving forward. We are moving towards a better society. We are moving towards a better quality of life, a better country for the future,” he said. “And the facts show that hosting these events benefits our people, benefits these changes that are happening, benefits living in Saudi Arabia.”

The 2019 bout, which featured Joshua reclaiming the World Heavyweight Championship from Andy Ruiz, was the first time a world heavyweight title bout was staged in Saudi Arabia. Last year, Kingdom joined his F1 circuit and the state’s Public Investment Fund is funding his LIV Golf. LIV Golf has attracted many top players with hefty signing bonuses and his $25 million purse, causing division in the sport.

In response to the LIV, the US PGA Tour has imposed indefinite bans on players who withdraw and raise prize money at several events. Prince Abdulaziz said he did not expect the LIV commotion. “Honestly, not really,” he said.

“If this sport benefits, I don’t think anyone should do it,” he said. If it attracts a lot of people, it will grow the sport for everyone.” Saudi Arabia will also compete in the 2027 Asian Cup and the 2027 Asian Winter Games, along with the 2029 Asian Winter Games at NEOM, a futuristic megacity project on the Red Sea. It is bidding to host the 2026 women’s version. – AFP

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