Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity NEOM will host winter games in desert

The event will take place in a man-made city with a year-round winter sports complex.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Overhead view of NEOM's The Line: manmade desert lake
NEOM's The Line


Can you make snow in the desert? It seems you can, as Saudi Arabia will be hosting the 2029 Asian Winter Games, according to a report published by the South China Morning Post on Tuesday.

Introducing Neom

The games will take place at the under-construction US$500 billion megacity called Neom, which is set to boast a year-round winter sports complex.

“The deserts and mountains of Saudi Arabia will soon be a playground for winter sports,” the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) said in a statement about the decision to choose the Kingdom as the host of the games.

The Saudi bid was further “unanimously approved,” the statement added. Neom will be the first West Asian city to host the sure-to-be-popular event.

The games are slated to take place in an area of the city called Trojena, “where winter temperatures drop below 32 Fahrenheit (zero Celsius) and year-round temperatures are generally 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the region,” states the project’s website.

Trojena’s completion date is set for 2026, and the area will be home to year-round skiing, chalets, mansions, luxury hotels, and, most impressively, a man-made freshwater lake.

Trojena is one of 10 regions within Neom but is unfortunately located in an area that receives very little rainfall, a fact that may become problematic for the games.

Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity NEOM will host winter games in desert
Skiing will be possible in Neom year round.

This hasn’t stopped Saudi’s leadership from having high hopes for the area. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who also serves as chair of Neom’s board, has said it “will redefine mountain tourism for the world by creating a place based on the principles of eco-tourism, highlighting our efforts to preserve nature and enhance the community’s quality of life.”

A nature reserve

Perhaps it’s because the architects and developers behind the area have put much thought into its progress and sustainability. They plan to surround it with a nature reserve in order to maintain any of its natural attributes.

Philip Gullett, Trojena’s executive director, said in an interview on the area’s website that his team is approaching the new development by taking into account the value that there is in the flora, fauna, and animals surrounding it. “You cut a new road through that environment and you’ll never repair it,” he explained.

Construction aside, many people are excited about Saudi Arabia hosting the winter games. Alpine skier Fayik Abdi revealed in a statement distributed by the OCA that, as a child, he never believed that he would have the opportunity to ski in his homeland.

Considering that his land is indeed one of the hottest in the world, it is clear to see why. However, technology has advanced enough to make extraordinary dreams possible such as producing ample enough snow to host a winter game in a desert land. Aren’t you excited?

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