DUBAI (Rahnuma): Many Saudis look back on the 1970s as a time of unprecedented development when sport, along with other aspects of life in the Kingdom, enjoyed rapid growth.
A government push to improve sports organization and boost participation in international competitions led to Saudi Arabia making its Olympic debut at the 1972 Munich Games. It marked the first time the Saudi flag was raised at the opening ceremony, although the Kingdom had been part of the International Olympic Committee since 1965. Saudi Arabia also participated in the first Arabian Gulf Cup in 1970, and made its debut at the Pan Arab Games in 1976 and at the Asian Games two years later.
Also in the 1970s, the Kingdom attracted foreign players to its football teams, including Brazil’s Roberto Rivellino, who played for Riyadh’s Al-Hilal.
Mohammed Al-Kharashy, a former manager of the Saudi national football team, told Arab News that in the 1970s, “there was a lot of funding to improve sports facilities to the highest level. More focus was put on international participation in football and many other sports.”
Although sport was part of Saudi culture, its official development can be traced back to Interior Minister Prince Abdullah bin Faisal Al-Saud, who created the Department of Sport in the Interior in 1952.