World Cup in Qatar, Winter Olympics in Beijing, and the 2029 Asian Winter Games in Saudi Arabia. Once again, a major sporting event is being placed in a controversial location.

Slalom races overlooking the Red Sea, biathlon in the mountain desert – and all without real snow. This is likely to become reality in seven years’ time because on Tuesday the Asian Olympic Committee gave its blessing to a controversial billion-euro project and awarded the 2029 Asian Winter Games to Saudi Arabia.

The location where medals in the classic winter sports disciplines will be contested does not yet exist. The mountain area “Trojena” near the planned city “Neom”, which is currently under construction, was awarded the contract in Phnom Penh/Cambodia. The “Trojan” area is expected to be in place by 2026.

“This is a great victory for the Saudi nation and the whole Gulf region,” said Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al Faisal. 47 competitions are to be held at the event.

Dust-dry desert: all on artificial snow

Trojan, 50 kilometers from the coast, lies at an altitude of 1500 to 2600 meters. In winter, temperatures occasionally drop to freezing point, but the area is dry as dust, so there has never been any real snow on site. However, other venues for such major events have also had this problem.

At the winter Asian Games in Saudi Arabia, the organizers have planned security in this respect, because they know from the outset that all snow competitions have to be held on artificial snow. After all, the energy for this is to come 100 percent from renewable sources.

Futuristic megacity Neom for an estimated 500 billion euros

The nearby futuristic megacity of Neom is currently being built on the Red Sea at an estimated cost of 500 billion euros. With this metropolis, the strictly autocratic state wants to compete with cities like Dubai or Doha.

The Asian Winter Games were last held in 2017. Saudi Arabia participated in the Winter Olympics for the first time in Beijing in 2022; alpine skier Fayik Abdi was the only starter and finished 44th in the giant slalom. “I never imagined that I would be able to ski in my home country,” he said on Tuesday.