The Power of Sports: How Saudi Arabia is Investing in a Better Future

For a few weeks every four years during the summer, the world unites under the banner of the Olympic Games. We momentarily set aside our differences and celebrate what humanity can achieve when we work together. We witness men and women overcoming barriers to reach their full potential, fueled by the spirit of the Olympics. This global event inspires us to invest in human potential and encourage the pursuit of dreams. The Olympic flame, burning bright, illuminates a future filled with possibilities.

The Olympic Games may only occur every four years, but their spirit lives on, motivating athletes worldwide every single day. While not all of us are world-class athletes, the Olympics still inspire and benefit us all. It’s about the message the Games carry. The lasting impact of this occasion extends far beyond the track, court, and field. When the world turns its attention to Paris, time zones fade, and geography becomes less relevant. We watch together, united in our fascination with human achievement. It’s a moment where we see what’s possible, not just for the athletes, but also for ourselves, as their stories inspire and challenge us.

This challenge isn’t necessarily to become great athletes; for most of us, it’s about becoming our best selves. It’s about overcoming obstacles in our lives, achieving our goals, contributing to the well-being of our families, and propelling our communities forward. In Olympic terms, it’s about living lives of excellence. This philosophy is now taking root in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A few months after the Paris Summer Games, Riyadh will host the third annual Saudi Games, our nation’s version of the Olympics. This year’s edition will bring together over 6,000 athletes, including paraathletes, competing in more than 50 different events. It’s a celebration of athleticism, a recognition of sports as a force for social change, and in the Kingdom, a catalyst for cultural transformation.

The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 initiative has prioritized national investment in sports, recognizing its vital role in social and human development. Sports shapes the lives of our youth, emphasizing teamwork, inclusion, and diversity. It levels the playing field, fosters greater equality, and ensures everyone has a chance to start at the same line. Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed a remarkable increase in women’s athletic participation in Saudi Arabia – over 150% since 2015. This is a game-changer both on and off the field of competition. It’s social change that impacts not just the sports sector but all sectors. When a nation sees inclusion and diversity in stadiums and arenas, it paves the way for greater efforts toward inclusivity in classrooms and boardrooms. That’s the power of sports.

The original Olympic values – to encourage effort, preserve human dignity, and develop harmony – remain at the core of what makes sports and the Olympics so essential to the human experience. Striving for excellence, respecting each other, and seeking unity through competition – these are the principles that transform lives, nations, and the world. Sports help us recognize that our shared values outweigh our differences. Respect found on the field increases the chance of finding respect off of it.

The Kingdom is committed to contributing to a better world as a global partner through athletic and cultural experiences. In addition to the Saudi Games, over the next decade, we will host other major events – the 2027 AFC Asian Cup, the 2029 Asian Winter Games in Neom, the Riyadh Expo 2030, the 2034 Asian Games, and hopefully the FIFA World Cup. We believe that coming together allows us to learn from each other, make a difference in the lives of all people, promote understanding, and correct misperceptions. We believe in the power of sports to build better lives and a better world.

The Kingdom’s investment in sports isn’t about headlines or hosting grand events, but about the social and economic benefits it brings to our nation and citizens. These investments are for ourselves, not for anyone else. This summer in Paris, athletes representing the best of our nation and the best of the world will stand together side by side, united under the Olympic flag. One of them will be Dunya Aboutaleb, a member of the Saudi Arabian national taekwondo team. While other Saudi women have competed as wildcards in the Olympics, Dunya will be the first to fully qualify, earning her spot in Paris through her performance at the Asian qualification tournament. This remarkable accomplishment will change the lives of other young women and girls in the Kingdom because they now know that anything is possible, not just for Dunya, but for themselves.

This achievement holds personal significance for me as a former equestrian athlete who was once unable to ride and compete in Saudi Arabia. This is a new dawn for women’s sports in the Kingdom. That’s the power of sports. That’s why the Olympics and the Saudi Games can change our lives and our world. HRH Princess Delayel bint Nahar Al Saud is the director of the Saudi Games and acting CEO of the Riyadh 2034 Asian Games.

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