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Saudi Arabia launches investment fund for sports, entertainment events

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s aggressive modernization plans have been criticized for being overly ambitious.
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (C) and Formula One Group CEO Stefano Domenicali (R).

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched Tuesday a new investment fund to support infrastructure related to sports, tourism and more. 

The Events Investment Fund will “develop a sustainable infrastructure” for the culture, tourism, entertainment and sports sectors throughout Saudi Arabia. The fund set a goal of financing and developing more than 35 venues by 2030 and will develop the following infrastructure, the official Saudi Press Agency reported:

  • indoor arenas
  • art galleries
  • theaters
  • conference centers
  • horse-racing tracks
  • auto racing tracks

The Events Investment Fund plans to finish its first project this year, according to the agency. 

Why it matters: The project is in line with Saudi Arabia’s strategic objectives to diversify its oil-based economy per the Vision 2030 initiative. The kingdom has invested heavily in sports, tourism and related endeavors recently. 

Last week, the Saudi Public Investment Fund announced a tourism project in Diriyah that will focus on Saudi history. The sovereign wealth fund unveiled a similar project in the mountainous Aseer region last month. 

The kingdom is also focusing heavily on sports events. Saudi Arabia is bidding to host the World Cup in 2030 and recently signed Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo to be ambassador for the bid. The Saudi Public Investment Fund-backed LIV Golf league also continues to grow and hosted a tournament in Jeddah last October. 

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix — a Formula One motor race — also kicked off in 2021. 

Saudi Arabia's art scene is also expanding, particularly in the capital, Riyadh, and the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah. 

The 35 venues by 2030 is a high target, and some of Mohammed's other goals have been criticized for being overly ambitious. This is especially true of the controversial “smart city” NEOM. Dr. Robert Mogielnicki wrote for Al-Monitor PRO in September that NEOM is facing sustainability and funding challenges

Relatedly, the US credit rating agency Fitch predicted in October that Saudi Arabia would fall short of its tourism objectives.

Know more: Read Samuel Wendel’s recent Memo for Al-Monitor PRO detailing Saudi Arabia’s long-term sports strategy

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