Two years ago, Saudi Arabia announced plans to build NEOM, a half-a-trillion-dollar, mega-city development, the likes of which the world has never seen. This week, following a series of measured developments within the project, such as the opening of NEOM Bay Airport in June, the city has now opened its doors to a selection of athletes from around the world with the launch of various, officially-endorsed, international sporting events.
According to Saudi Gazette, amongst the numerous events that were hosted at NEOM this week was a wakeboard event along its blue, shimmering waters, a FIFA-endorsed Beach Soccer Cup tournament on its pristine sands, a number of exhibition Beach Rugby matches, and a Beach Tennis invitation event. The event also featured an all-female set of match officials.
Taking to the waters around the stunning, untouched beaches of Gayal, which is situated on the Gulf of Aqaba, were athletes from 16 countries who participated in the IWWF NEOM Wakeboard event. On the shore, the four-day Beach Soccer Cup tournament brought in teams from Saudi Arabia, China, Egypt, England, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates to compete against one another, with Oman emerging victorious, beating Egypt 5-4 during extra time.
Speaking to the news site, Nadhmi Al-Nasr, the CEO of NEOM, said, “As we build the land of the future, we see sports as an integral part of the NEOM offering, leveraging our unique pristine land to host international sporting events both for professional and everyday athletes, as well as those who choose to visit and live in NEOM. Sport plays a leading role in the realization of our dream to inspire us all to live healthier lifestyles.”Created as part of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Vision 2030 plan, NEOM is a business and industrial zone project estimated to be 33 times the size of New York. This ultra-modern metropolis envisioned as a 26,500-square kilometer project that extends along the Kingdom’s borders into Jordan and Egypt is set to transform Saudi Arabia’s economy through the use of technology and by offering a more liberal environment.