Saudi Arabia Covers Up Rights Abuses by Creating «Western» Sport City that Serves Alcohol
By Staff, Agencies
Saudi Arabia is planning to create a new cross-border city state governed by western, rather than Islamic, law as part of its long-term strategy to become a global center for world class sporting events.
Sportsmail has learned that a key element of the kingdom's Vision 2030 is the introduction of western laws in the new city of Neom, a £400billion project in the north west near the Red Sea.
It should help them win the right to stage more global events such as Saturday's £66million world heavyweight title fight between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jnr in Riyadh.
The Saudi government are understood to have recruited numerous public affairs experts from all over the world, including several from Britain, to advise on a project that was first launched by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman [MBS] two years ago.
The new city would operate independently from the rest of the country, with different laws for workers and women's rights, as well as giving more freedom to visitors such as the right to drink alcohol, which boxing fans are denied this weekend.
Saudi Arabia have been criticized by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International for attempting to 'sports-wash' their global reputation by hosting events such as Saturday's Clash on the Dunes, which has led to a backlash in some quarters.
Amnesty says the Joshua-Ruiz fight takes place against a backdrop of increased oppression of local people in a country where there have been 146 executions this year.
However, the Saudi government have no plans to scale back their ambitious program of bidding for staging rights, part of a wider plan to grow the tourism industry to 10 per cent of the national economy by 2030. It will help to reduce the country's dependency on oil.
The first stage in the construction of Neom is due to be completed by 2025, though that may be delayed after a planned sale of shares in state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco to raise funds was put back.
It is also hoped that liberalizing part of the country will make it more appealing to travelling fans. Despite selling tickets in 60 different countries the Joshua-Ruiz fight at the purpose-built Diriyah Arena has not sold out.
Money is no object when it comes to using sport's appeal to cover up human rights abuses like that. The Saudis' great friends from Abu Dhabi have taught us so.
MBS will be signing up public affairs experts to help develop the Neom city-state: his great con in the desert. He'll pay them handsomely.
Scores of women have fled slavery and abuse by violent husbands, brothers and fathers, in a state where they need men's permission to marry, leave prison or a domestic abuse shelter.
These women tell stories of shadowy surveillance by men in SUVs and threatening their families, which they have encountered in countries offering them asylum.