France ski world blasts Asian Winter Games in Saudi Arabia

PARIS (AP) — The French ski federation, mayors from mountain resorts and ski instructors lashed out Thursday at the decision to award the 2029 Asian Winter Games to Saudi Arabia, saying the decision goes against “what is desirable for the planet.”

In a joint statement also signed by the union of ski area operators, they said they have been “left flabbergasted” by the plan to host the competition “in a place naturally poor in precipitation and water, where there are no ski resorts or slopes to date.”

Saudi Arabia will host the Asian Winter Games in mountains near the $500 billion futuristic city project Neom. The Olympic Council of Asia picked the Saudi candidacy that centers on Trojena, which is planning to be a year-round ski resort by 2026.

The Neom megaproject is being fund by the Saudi sovereign wealth vehicle, the Public Investment Fund.

“We can only denounce this aberrant project, which is totally opposite to what is desirable for the planet,” the French collective said, insisting on the need for all to respect the 2015 Paris accord’s target for limiting global warming and to manage resources and biodiversity in a sustainable way.

“It is only on this condition that future generations will be able to live happily on our planet and learn to ski,” they said.

Saudi Arabia also will host the 2034 Asian Games in Riyadh as part of aggressive moves to build a sports hosting portfolio and help diversify the economy from reliance on oil. A campaign to host the 2030 World Cup in soccer is expected with an unprecedented three-continent bid including Egypt and Greece.

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