Saudi Arabia’s decision to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games or the Asian winter sports party has surprised many. The location of the venue is questionable.
Quoted from DW, Saudi Arabia’s territory consists mostly of desert. Snowfall does occur occasionally, but very rarely. In addition, Saudi Arabia also does not have the infrastructure or tradition of winter sports. This means that all or most of the venues needed for the 2029 Asian Winter Games must be built from scratch.
Saudi Arabia confidently calls the sporting event in Trojena, where the $500 billion futuristic megacity project Neom is being built. The project is the initiative of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Neom will be built on an area of 26,500 square kilometers. This mega project will conjure up a barren land located close to the Suez Canal, which is lined by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. It is predicted that the construction of Neom City will cost USD 500 billion with a construction period of 40 years.
Later, the Neom area will accommodate an area dedicated to future technologies. What was once just an imagination, will be realized in Neom City. The future energy here will be using solar panels and turbines.
Neom scientists will pioneer future sources of energy, storage and working power. Starting from water, gas, oil, sun, wind, algae and all kinds of new energy that the world has never thought of.
Later, this area has a temperature 10 degrees lower than other regions.
Saudi Arabia plans to build a mountain resort in the future city of Neom. The development of Trojena is expected to be completed by 2026 and will offer outdoor ski facilities, an artificial freshwater lake and a nature reserve. Also equipped with inns, mansions and ultra-luxurious hotels.
Located 50 kilometers inland from the Red Sea, the site of Trojena naturally receives very little rainfall. This of course raises practical questions about how the place became a ski resort.
“You change natural ecosystems which can have complex impacts. If you change something in one place, it can change something else in another, and so on, and it can have an impact on the ecosystem around it,” said Ahmed El Droubi, manager regional campaign for Greenpeace.
Filling an artificial lake with desalinated water will also be very energy-consuming. This step is also considered to only last in the short term.
“It has to be consistently filled with water and therefore will continue to use a large amount of energy in the long term. Even if powered through renewable energy, it is a waste of energy,” he said.
“Just because something is powered by renewable energy doesn’t make it sustainable or environmentally friendly… There are many other factors,” says El Droubi.
Questions also arise from potential participants, athletes and coaches, from other countries.
“This is bad for our sport,” Olympic silver medalist Johan Clarey told French radio.
Similarly, the Secretary General of the International Ski and Snowboard Federation, Michel Vion, was also surprised by the decision of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).
This is not the first time this has happened in the Gulf region. In 2021, Dubai will host a qualifier for the Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. All matches and competitions are held in the refrigerated dome of a large shopping center with outdoor temperatures reaching 30 degrees Celsius.
But the Saudi project, especially in the era of global warming, poses a number of problems. Ranging from energy to temperature regulation for matches, including detours to local water resources and construction of artificial ski slopes.