A sporting chance to reap the rewards of changing attitudes in Saudi Arabia

A sporting chance to reap the rewards of changing attitudes in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Experts discussed fresh ways to enjoy the economic benefits of the developing sports sector in Saudi Arabia, particularly to benefit the country’s youth, during a workshop organized by Jeddah Chamber of commerce.

The event, Opportunities for Innovation in the Sports Economy, took place this week as part of the activities accompanying the recent Makkah Economic Forum (MEF).

The speakers included Prince Bandar Al-Saud, the founder and chairman of Crescent Technologies Saudi Arabia; Lina Al-Maeena, a pioneer of women’s sports in the Kingdom and a member of the Shoura Council; and Ziad Jarrar, the founder and chief design officer at design company Taurus.

The recent growth of women’s sport in Saudi Arabia, and the important role it will play in the future, is one of the areas that has generated a lot of discussion.

Al-Maeena is a pioneer in the field of women’s sports, and female empowerment, in the Kingdom. She founded Jeddah United, the country’s first private basketball club for women, in 2003, at a time when there was great opposition to such moves.

“There are historical decisions that took place last year concerning the sports sector for women, which is the crux of Vision 2030, such as allowing sport in girls’ schools… and women to enter stadiums,” said Al-Maeena. “These sports projects contribute to strengthening family bonds.”

The workshop discussed a number of problems facing the country’s sports sector, along with possible solutions and ideas to help overcome obstacles emerging projects might face.

A documentary was screened showing projects and opportunities for targeted investments in the sports sector and how this will boost employment opportunities for Saudi youth.

“The leadership of any country must give a strong impetus to society and everyone should be given a sense of permission to practice various sports, where they affect social and family mobility, and in the future the appropriate infrastructure will be available,” said Jarrar.

Prince Bandar said: “The sports sector is accompanied by a lot of services to inspire different investors, such as sport abayas and sport fashion, food trucks and productive families. The people of Saudi Arabia are aware of the importance of these services.”

The sports sector in the Kingdom is undergoing a huge transformation in a very short period of time as attitudes change, and there are opportunities for women that were unthinkable until recently. Women can now visit and work in sports stadiums, can become sports photographers or even repair bicycles. As the country’s population increases, there are big opportunities for the sports sector to grow and develop.

“I have always struggled trying to spread the sport culture in the Kingdom among young men and girls,” said Al-Maeena. “Every year me and my team used to have games with different teams from around the world and our goal was to convey a positive idea about Saudi, Muslim women.”

Prince Bandar added: “Achievements in the market and success come through a good understanding of the shortage in the market and what the customer needs.”

The workshop was hosted by the Continuing Education Center of the University of Business and Technology, a leading training and career-development center for professionals and executives in a variety of business and management fields. It provides international certified training programs for individuals and companies in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East.

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