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Opinion: How Saudi Arabia Can Become The Next Major Sporting Destination In The Region

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The upcoming ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E-Prix in Riyadh’s historic heart is all set to be of the biggest events to take place in the country. Saudi Arabia is leaving no stone unturned to ensure its success be it bringing in big artists from the Arab World and beyond to launching a new visa just in time.

Hundreds of foreign visitors are expected to come from abroad just for the mega event.

Saudi Arabia has shown in the past that it can host mega-events successfully like the recently concluded WWE event but there’s still a long way to go and here are some ways that they can go about achieving it.

Aim Events At An International Audience

Up until now, almost all major sporting events that Saudi hosted have been aimed at a domestic audience rather than one that seeks to bring in international visitors. The Ad Diriyah E-Prix is a good step in the right direction but we need more of such events that will lure in international visitors.

Host Recurring Sporting Events

One-off events make for good entertainment but to become a major destination for sporting events we need ones that recur annually. We can take cues from neighboring Dubai that has the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and Bahrain that has the recurring Bahrain Grand Prix both of which have become major sporting events.

Other Sporting Events Besides Football Are Also Good

Dubai hosts a major rugby event every year called the Dubai Sevens. Even though locally football is by far the most popular sport and many locals who even don’t know the basics of rugby turn up in huge numbers for the event. So getting sports that may not be that popular among the locals can be major crowd pullers.

Make The Most Of What You Already Have

2018 was a landmark year for the Saudi sports industry hosting events like the Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters, Race Of Champions and the World Boxing Super Series Cruiserweight Final. But now getting them to recur every year, providing international ticket holders with easy visa access and generating buzz around it is what Saudi needs to do with the events it has if it is to become a major sporting destination.

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