Saudi Arabia has announced that it is hoping to find ski and snowboard competitors to represent the kingdom at next winter’s 2022 Olympics in Beijing. The country is also set to become home to the fourth largest indoor snow centre in the world, and the largest outside China, next year.
The Saudi Winter Sports Federation has been placing adverts seeking competitors to represent the country and local media reports that the Federation’s President Ahmed Shaher Al-Tabbaa has been “overwhelmed” by Saudi interest in winter sports saying they have received more than 100 applications to participate for the different alpine disciplines.
The Federation has been on the lookout for serious Saudi skiers and snowboarders who have already been training with a club or coach elsewhere in the world. They say they have narrowed the application list down to eight serious contenders who are now starting a rigorous training program in the run up to the Olympics.
However the eight are not believed to include any snowsports athletes with the Federation saying their initial focus for Beijing is on ice sports with a longer term plan to set up specialized winter camps for skiers and boarders.
Mr Al-Tabbaa noted that the biggest challenge facing the Federation was providing natural or manmade terrain for training.
“We don’t have snow or ice,” he told local media, “Therefore, I would call on the private sector to provide it for us especially as we are a new young federation that is eager to engage with the private sector.”
Mr Al-Tabbaa’s call may be answered sooner than he hoped as what looks set to be the world’s fourth biggest indoor snow centre, from the company that created Ski Dubai and the more recent Ski Egypt, as well as another indoor snow centre set to open in Oman in September, is due to open in the country in early 2024.
The Mall of Saudi is set to feature a 40,000 square metre indoor snow slope, which is about half as big again as Ski Dubai and would make it the biggest in the world outside China.
The country does already have several small ‘snow experience/fun’ centres including Snow City in Riyadh pictured below.