In July of this year, Saudi Arabia announced that NEOM, its megacity development project, was opening its doors to a selection of athletes from around the world with the launch of various, officially-endorsed, international sporting events. Amongst the numerous events that were hosted at NEOM was wakeboarding, a FIFA-endorsed Beach Soccer Cup tournament, a number of exhibition Beach Rugby matches, and a Beach Tennis invitation event. This week, the Kingdom announced that NEOM is being prepped to also host a different kind of sports, electronic sports, aiming to ultimately become a permanent venue and world capital of this growing, popular sporting genre.
According to Saudi Gazette, NEOM recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS), with the aim to support NEOM’s goal to become a world capital for e-sports, starting with the possibility of the city hosting major e-sporting events by the year 2020. The Kingdom is also banking on developing local talent, as over 20 percent of its youth actively practice e-sports on a weekly basis. SAFEIS was created in 2017 to act as the regulating body responsible for the development of world-class e-gaming athletes, as well as the creation of an ecosystem for the gaming community and industry in the Kingdom.
On October 27 of that same year, Saudi Arabia announced plans to build NEOM, a half-a-trillion-dollar business and industrial zone, the likes of which the world has never seen. Since then, NEOM has witnessed a series of measured developments such as the opening of NEOM Bay Airport in June of this year. Created as part of the Kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030 plan, this ultra-modern is estimated to be 33 times the size of New York, a metropolis envisioned as a 26,500-square kilometer project that extends along the Kingdom’s borders into Jordan and Egypt. NEOM is set to transform Saudi Arabia’s economy through the use of technology and by offering a more liberal environment. This landmark project, as well as others under Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, marks a clear attempt by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to diversify the Kingdom’s oil revenue reliant economy.