RIYADH: The Qiddiya megaproject, which will create Saudi Arabia’s first entertainment and sports city, is one of the flagship developments that aim to transform the country in line with the objectives of Vision 2030.
In an exclusive interview, Almamoun Alshingiti, the executive director of sport at Qiddiya, gave Arab News a progress report on the project, and explained how the developers are working with other organizations to improve sporting facilities in the Kingdom to offer more opportunities for people to participate and develop their skills.
“Qiddiya will open its doors to the public in late 2022, with a wide array of facilities and programs catering to all people who want to play sport,” he said. “Qiddiya is approaching sports development in Saudi Arabia with a long-term vision, exploring ways to empower youth and aspiring talent to transform hobbies into elite athletic pursuits.
“We aim to deepen society’s understanding of, and appreciation for, fitness and wellness. As such, we are currently designing extracurricular, academic, and sports development projects for all age groups, with the community’s needs in mind.”
In addition to the sheer scale of the project, Qiddiya also offers many other improvements and innovations compared with the facilities currently available. As a result, the developers have great ambitions for the transformative role it will play in Saudi society.
“Qiddiya is a catalyst for a fitness transformation, allowing visitors to practice more than 150 sports,” said Alshingiti. “What separates Qiddiya from others is the breadth of sport, coupled with the development factor that seeks to promote physical activity, sports for recreation, events and competitions.
“Additionally, Qiddiya will take into account cultural and personal sensitivities, by allowing women the space to explore their interests in a variety of sports, some of which were unavailable to them in the past.”
To achieve these ambitious aims, Qiddiya is working with a number of local and international organizations, including the Kingdom’s General Sports Authority.
“Qiddiya is keen to work with all stakeholders to ensure the programs offered benefit Saudi society,” said Alshingiti. “To date, Qiddiya has engaged with the GSA, the International Olympic Committee and other federations on how best to address market gaps and needs. Workshops have been designed to enhance training, scholarship development and elite sports development.
“The GSA is a key partner as we examine how to engage the whole country in sports and fitness initiatives. Qiddiya also engages with other stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Education, on larger programs to be launched soon.”
A section of the community that has often been overlooked and poorly provided for in the past is people with special needs. However, Qiddiya aims to be as inclusive as possible.
“We are working on creating specific programs that cater to athletes and hobbyists with special needs,” said Alshingiti. “They will find a home at Qiddiya, which will be carefully designed to accommodate different levels of skill and physical ability.
Any project on such a grand scale and with such lofty ambitions will clearly face huge challenges along the way, but Alshingiti is confident that they can and will be overcome.
“We hope to be the glue that binds people together by offering the space, networks and infrastructure needed to make all things work as one,” he said. “We will strive to streamline operations among all relevant stakeholders, and Qiddiya will push forward initiatives that directly work to fulfill Vision 2030 directives, such as increasing the activity rate among Saudi citizens.
“Fostering cross-body cooperation between different sport federations is an objective in which Qiddiya will lead the charge.”
The new venue also aims to attract and host major sporting contests and events, and to become a hub for citizens interested in building a career in the sports and fitness fields.
“Qiddiya will host all types of sporting contests and deliver events in which the public can participate as well,” said Alshingiti.
“For Saudi citizens seeking to explore a career in sports, we will offer numerous professional-development programs that will train and prepare the next generation for success and excellence. Thousands of jobs will be created at Qiddiya for sports professionals and support staff. Constantly-changing offerings will also ensure that the entertainment here encourages the public to come back for more.”
The venue also aims to honor the sporting traditions of Saudi Arabia, while also looking to the future by catering to fans of the latest international trends.
“Qiddiya will offer extreme sports, motor sports, air sports, traditional sports and e-sports,” said Alshingiti. “Blending the traditional with the modern is what will send a message that Qiddiya is for all practitioners, no matter their age, level, interest or experience.
“Building the appropriate facilities to accommodate this wide variety of sports reflects our commitment to acting as the Kingdom’s premier athletic destination, and Qiddiya will be at the cutting edge of a new, healthy, vibrant sports ecosystem in Saudi Arabia.”