There has been no secret surrounding the fact that Saudi Arabia is hosting more and more prestigious sporting events in recent times. It has been a move that some experts have questioned, as reports of sportswashing are refusing to leave the mainstream media.
However, it is becoming a lucrative venture for those that compete in the event and is bringing some of the biggest stars from different sports to the Gulf so that locals can witness some of the best events. But, what events have been held in Saudi Arabia over the previous five years and what future events could the country look to host?
One of the most controversial events that have been funded by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund is the LIV Golf Tour. Events take place as part of the tour in Saudi Arabia, but other competitions also take place in Europe and the United States. It has been rebranded as the LIV Golf League for 2023, but the civil war that it has started in golf doesn’t yet look to be a story that has reached its conclusion.
Players involved in the tour are paid an eye-watering amount of money, and stars such as Dustin Johnson and Ian Poulter were questioned heavily for their stance on important human rights issues before participating in the first LIV golf event in London last year.
However, the tournament will once again see a number of prestigious players in action when it returns to Saudi Arabia, including Open champion Cameron Smith, and major stars such as Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, and Phil Mickelson.
There have also been a number of prestigious boxing events held in Saudi Arabia over the past five years, which has led to an increase in bettors at www.a7labet.com. The biggest fight to have been held in the country came last year, as the WBO, IBF, IBO, and The Ring heavyweight showdown between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua was staged at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah. It was the second time that AJ had fought in Saudi following his comfortable win over Andy Ruiz Jr.
However, with the eyes of the world on the event in 2022, Joshua was stunningly beaten for a second straight time by the former unified cruiserweight king. Boxing remains hugely popular in the area, and it will also host the upcoming bout between Tommy Fury and Jake Paul later this year.
Formula 1 visiting the Middle East is nothing new, as the sport has been visiting Abu Dhabi for the season-ending race for the previous ten years. However, Saudi Arabia has also entered the scene in recent years, with the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix added to the calendar for the first time in 2021. However, many speculated whether this was the right decision for the sport.
Lewis Hamilton was one of the biggest critics and showed his discontent by racing in a rainbow-coloured helmet. However, the race has made for some exciting moments in the Formula 1 season, including the titanic battle between Hamilton and Max Verstappen in the first edition of the race in 2021.
Hamilton’s win saw the title race continue. Last year’s race was won by Verstappen, who finished just under a second clear of Charles Leclerc in another dramatic renewal of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) was the first major sport to create waves in Saudi Arabia, hosting the Greatest Royal Rumble in 2018. This was the first year of a ten-year agreement between WWE and Saudi Arabia. It wasn’t without controversy, though, as the firm was chastised for holding the event and admitting that female celebrities couldn’t compete between 2014 and 2019.
But, this was changed in 2019, as a match between Natalya and Lacey Evans was added to the card. However, some of the WWE’s own performers boycotted the event, including Sami Zayn, who didn’t travel to Saudi due to the country’s strained relationship with Syria.
Other superstars that have refused to compete in Saudi Arabia include Daniel Bryan and John Cena. But, the shows have been a huge success among local fans, and the company last put on a show in the area in 2022, with a title bout between Roman Reigns and Logan Paul headlining the card.
The Future Of Saudi Arabian Sport
The future certainly appears bright for those that live in the Gulf, as there will be a growing number of events taking place in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom is aiming to host the Asian Cup in 2030, while reports have also speculated that a bid for the World Cup could also be on the horizon.