Sports | August 23, 2022 4:02 pm

Buoyed by LIV Golf Success, Saudi Arabia Sets Sights on Hosting Olympics 

Saudi sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal called hosting the Games "an ultimate goal"

The original Olympic rings in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London
Will the Olympic rings wind up in Saudi Arabia one day?
Richard Baker/In Pictures via Getty

With the controversial LIV Golf Series continuing to make daily headlines in the United States, Saudi Arabia’s apparent plan to sportswash the nation’s image — using the golf circuit that its Public Investment Fund (PIF) is backing with $2 billion — is well underway. But the country has even larger ambitions in the world of sports (and sportswashing).

Saudi Arabia now has its sights set on hosting the Olympic Games at some point in the future. Speaking to the media, Saudi sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal called hosting the Games “an ultimate goal.”

“Our main focus now is the 2034 [Asian Games],” he said. “We’re open to discuss with the IOC about [hosting the Olympics] for the future. I think Saudi Arabia has showcased that we can host such events. Definitely, the Olympics would be an ultimate goal for us. But we’re open to that and I think we can.”

Saudi Arabia would certainly be able to foot the bill for an Olympics as shelling out the amount China did to pull off the 2022 Winter Olympics (about $8.8 billion) would be pocket change for the PIF (which owns a controlling stake in Premier League team Newcastle United) considering how easy it was for the fund to allocate $2 billion for LIV Golf.

As for LIV, Prince Abdulaziz also addressed the upstart series and all of the issues it has caused in the U.S., including multiple lawsuits involving the PGA Tour and calls for LIV players to be banned from playing in majors moving forward. True or not, the 39-year-old said he hadn’t anticipated the uproar LIV has wrought.

“Not really, honestly,” he said. “I think that if there’s a benefit for the sport, then why not, whoever does it. If it benefits the athletes, if it benefits the sport, attracts more attention to the sport, attracts more people that want to participate in the sport, that will grow the sport for everyone.”

The host of a Formula 1 Grand Prix last year, Saudi Arabia is set to welcome next year’s World Combat Games and will also hold the 2027 Asian Cup and the 2029 Winter Asian Games. Those are all examples of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s directive to invest in sports to diversify the oil-reliant Saudi economy, according to the South China Morning Post.

“We’re progressing, we’re moving towards a better society, we’re moving towards a better quality of life, a better country, for the future,” Prince Abdulaziz said. “And the facts show that hosting these events benefit our people and benefit these changes that are happening and benefits living in Saudi.”