Inaugural Saudi Games to start on Oct. 27 with prize pot of SR200m

RIYADH: The inaugural Saudi Games, postponed in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, will now take place between Oct. 27 and Nov. 7 with a prize pot of more than SR200 million ($53.2 million), it was revealed on Friday.

Making the announcement, Minister of Sport and President of the Saudi Arabian Olympic and Paralympic Committee Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, thanked the Saudi leadership for supporting the sector, and noted that the event marked a historic milestone for sport in the Kingdom.

The prince said: “The Saudi Games were first announced two years ago and were then postponed because of the pandemic, which we have successfully navigated with the grace of God and the efforts of a government that puts its people first, ensuring that we are here today with no restrictions and back enjoying a normal life.

“As this event is taking place for the first time in Saudi Arabia’s history, we reviewed the previous mechanism where the 13 regions competed against one another. After several workshops with the national sports federations, we found that many areas will struggle to compete due to the lack of official regional governing bodies to recruit and train athletes for the Saudi Games.

“Therefore, we have identified competition between clubs representing regions and cities across the Kingdom as the optimal way to achieve our objectives in this milestone event.

“Today, we have over 100 active clubs overseeing more than 15 different sports, which is a direct result of the clubs’ support strategy, which enters its fourth year with tangible success. This change we announce today, will serve as a driver to motivate clubs to pay more attention to various sports.

“Our primary objective in the Saudi Games is to produce new sporting heroes through the elite athletes’ program launched less than a year ago. It will discover new talents through the Saudi Games and commit to empowering them to reach podiums in continental and international competitions,” he added.

The organizing committee of the event also announced a change to the mechanisms of the games being hosted in Riyadh, with clubs competing instead of the previously announced regional system.

More than 200 clubs will compete in 45 individual and team sports.

In addition to medals, athletes will compete for record prizes exceeding SR200 million, with first-placed clubs receiving SR1 million, runners-up SR350,000, and third-placed participants SR100,000.

Additionally, to provide the chance for amateur athletes and individuals to take part in the Saudi Games, they will be allowed to compete under the SOPC flag in individual sports.

This will be through registration for trials between July 31 and Aug. 7. The trials themselves will be held from Aug. 15 to Sept. 10 in 22 sports according to a schedule soon to be announced.

Games’ organizers hope the event will unearth a new generation of sporting champions through the connection with the elite athletes’ program built to scout athletes and nurture them into future Olympic winners.

Organizers pointed out that the occasion would also boost the Kingdom’s capacity to host major sporting events in line with Vision 2030.