Skiing in the desert state: Saudi Arabia is to host the Asian Winter Games in 2029. The deserts and mountains would become “the playground of winter sports,” reported the Asian Olympic Committee. As the umbrella organization announced, the city of Neom was unanimously elected at the 41st General Assembly in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

“This is a great victory for the Saudi nation and the entire Gulf region,” said Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al Faisal on a decision that is noteworthy in at least two respects: First, the city of Neom has yet to be completed, and second, it is located them on a patch of earth where snow is extremely rare.

The Gulf state, which has been criticized for human rights violations, is trying to improve its reputation with lucrative sporting events. With a lot of money, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman brings top-class sporting events into the country: including Formula 1, boxing, horse racing and currently golf. A series that competes with the American PGA Tour has just been built from scratch with almost unlimited resources, golf professionals are being enticed away with sums in the hundreds of millions.

The decision of the Asian Olympic Committee is a further step towards establishing the kingdom as one of the leading countries in sport, wrote Sports Minister Al Faisal. In 2017, Saudi Arabia announced the construction of the megacity Neom on the Red Sea, which, with an area of ​​26,500 square kilometers, is to be larger than Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The city is being built in the north-west of the country on the borders with Egypt and Israel and is intended to compete with Dubai and Qatar in terms of tourism

Air taxis will also be on the road in Neom. It is planned that the mountain region of Trojena, which is part of the mega-city, will be converted into a winter sports area. The winter games are to take place there in seven years. The region is at an altitude of 1500 to 2600 meters and it can also get cold there. But the climate is bone dry, snow will only be artificial.

The Asian Winter Games last took place in 2017, since then no suitable host country has been available. And so Trojena was the only applicant for 2029.