Saudi Arabia has revealed its plans to bid for the hosting rights of the 2034 World Cup, signaling its ambition to become a global sports powerhouse. The bid aims to showcase Saudi Arabia’s transformation and deep passion for football, drawing inspiration from the country’s ongoing social and economic changes.
This announcement comes a year after Qatar hosted the first-ever World Cup in the Middle East. Notably, Saudi Arabia signed football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo to play in the Saudi Pro League, attracting other major stars with lucrative salaries.
Sports are a significant component of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform agenda, which aims to diversify the Saudi economy and position the country as a global tourism and business hub.
The Saudi-only bid for the 2034 World Cup emphasizes the convenience of short flying times between cities and stadiums, with a maximum of three hours. However, the country’s willingness to invest heavily in sporting events has been met with accusations of “sportswashing,” using sports to divert attention from human rights concerns.
If Saudi Arabia wins the bid, hosting the World Cup would bring increased scrutiny to the country’s leadership, particularly Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Environmental concerns and sustainability issues surrounding World Cup-related construction may also draw backlash from activists.
Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia is keen to use the World Cup as an opportunity to showcase its natural attractions and culture, dispelling stereotypes about the country. The Asian Football Confederation has expressed support for Saudi Arabia’s 2034 World Cup bid, emphasizing unity and cooperation within the global football community.