Saudi king launches $23 bn Riyadh recreational projects

Saudi king launches $23 bn Riyadh recreational projects
2 min read
19 March, 2019
Riyadh announced recreational projects worth $23 billion on Tuesday, as part of the kingdom's plans to diversify its oil-reliant economy.
Riyadh is attempting to diversify as part of its Vision 2030 [Getty]
Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Tuesday announced recreational projects in the capital Riyadh worth $23 billion, officials said, in a new drive to transform the congested city.

The four projects - an entertainment park, a sports boulevard, a tree-lined oasis and an arts centre - are the latest in a series of high-profile state investments overseen by the monarch's 33-year-old son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In a separate report, state media said the king also ordered that one of the capital's main roads be named after the controversial prince.

Construction for the projects, expected to generate tens of thousands of jobs, is set to begin in the second half of 2019, officials said.

Prince Mohammed will head the government committee overseeing the projects, which a government statement said will create opportunities worth $15 billion in private sector investment.

In recent years, the Arab world's largest economy has announced mega projects worth hundreds of billions of dollars in a bid to diversify the oil-reliant economy, but implementation has been slow.

The projects include plans to build the $500 billion NEOM mega city on the northern Red Sea coast.

Tuesday's announcements are the latest sign of the king's backing of the crown prince, the country's de facto ruler who faces global condemnation over last year's killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom's Istanbul consulate.

The prince, leading a much-trumpeted drive to modernise the conservative kingdom, also faces criticism over the detention and ongoing trials of several women activists, seen as part of a broad crackdown on dissent.

2019 plans

Running with the bulls and a NBA basketball match will be some of the highlights of Saudi Arabia's entertainment calendar in 2019, as the kingdom seeks to shake-up its image following negative publicity surrounding the murder of Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia's controversial General Entertainment Authority chief Turki al-Sheikh - a close confidant of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - unveiled the  plans for the year, as the kingdom attempts to promote sports and other events.

Among the sporting events planned are an NBA game, although no details were provided on which teams will take part and when.

Former football stars David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane will also visit the kingdom, according to the entertainment authority, but no further information was available.

There are also plans for a recreation of the "Running of the Bulls", the famous bull-run in Spain's Pamplona.

Musicians Jay Z, DJ Khaled and Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu is also due to perform, although no dates have been set.

London's Madame's Tussaud's wax museum will also open, according to Al-Sheikh.

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