Saudi Arabia solidified its bid to host the nation’s first-ever Asian Games Monday when officials revealed the Riyadh 2030 bid book that was submitted ahead of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) deadline.
By doing so, the Middle East nation joins its bordering geopolitical rival Qatar as the only two remaining candidates to host the second largest international multi-sport event next to the Olympic Games.
“By the end of the deadline of October 4, 2020, the OCA has received the official bids from the cities of Doha, Qatar and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia offering to host the 21st Asian Games in 2030,” the OCA announced in a statement.
The OCA Evaluation Commission led by Wei Jizhong is set to visit both cities in the third week of October to make assessments of the projects. The winning bid will be elected during the 39th OCA General Assembly scheduled for December 16 in Muscat, Oman.
During a presentation Monday the bid unveiled its logo depicting a map of Saudi Arabia enclosing several sport pictograms. Officials also dropped the new tagline, “Transforming The Future,” both representing “goals of inspiring new dreams, reaching new horizons and setting new standards for what it means to host the Asian Games.”
“Imagine the impact of the Asian Games in driving forward this transformation. Imagine the impact of our story on women’s sports development across all of Asia,” HRH Reema Bandar Al-Saud, International Olympic Committee (IOC) member and Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States said at Monday’s presentation.
The Ambassador directly addressed international concerns regarding poor treatment of women in the Kingdom, and the lack of female participation in sport.
She added “as a woman I also know the opportunity that this bid represents for the future of generations of young girls.”
“Since 2010, the numbers of female participants have grown across a wide range of sports.”
Dalma Malhas, who became the first woman to compete at an Olympic event when she rode in the equestrian event at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, said “this is a vision that I am proud to represent on behalf of future generations of Saudi Arabian daughters.”
“This bid is more than a bid. This bid is the dream of a nation,” said HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Alfaisal Al-Saud, the chairman of Riyadh 2030 and President of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee.
“We are fortunate to enjoy the support of a broad coalition of Government and institutional partners,” added HH Prince Fahad bin Jalawi, Executive Director of the bid.
“Riyadh 2030 is Transforming the Future with our bid to host the 2030 Asian Games,” a statement released by the bid Monday said.
“The city of Riyadh promises to deliver a vibrant and diverse event on a spectacular, modern and sustainable stage unifying fans and athletes from across Asia with a celebration of sport. Hosting our first-ever Asian Games would fulfill the dream of an entire nation and connect the Asian Olympic Movement to a new audience and inspire a new generation.”
Doha already hosted what were considered successful Asian Games in 2006, and Qatar has included the 2030 edition as part of its sports roadmap that includes the 2022 FIFA World Cup and bids for both the 2027 Asian Cup Football Tournament and the 2032 Olympic Games.
Riyadh is also bidding for the 2027 Asian Cup, and is trying to raise its profile in sports event hosting.
Saudi Arabia has led a multi-nation blockade of Qatar since 2017 resulting in complicated and strained diplomatic relations across the region. Due to the underlying rivalry, this bid race will result in a major political victory for the winner.
Both nations have been put under the microscope by human rights NGO Amnesty International for violations and abuses. The organization has called upon the OCA to avoid the Games becoming a potential “sportswashing” event.
“There are numerous important issues, including whether women and LGTBI fans and contestants will be able to freely participate in the games,” a spokesperson said earlier this year.
“The Asian Games shouldn’t become a vehicle for states to ‘sportswash’ their reputations, instead they should be an opportunity for human rights to be properly bolstered and defended in hosting countries.”
The 2018 Asian Games were staged in Jakarta-Palembang, Indonesia and the next event will be held in Hangzhou, China in 2022. Japan will host Aichi-Nagoya 2026.