Saudi Arabia's NEOM city won't just be an offline global sports powerhouse but aims to become a prominent international e-gaming hub.
Saudi officials have big plans for the futuristic city - which is situated in the extreme northwest of Saudi Arabia - and they haven't been hiding them.
One such plan materialized last week after NEOM managers signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Saudi Arabian Federation of Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS). The agreement is set to pave the way for "initiatives aimed at making Neom one of the world's most prominent e-gaming hubs."
It was signed in Riyadh during the ceremony that saw the launching of the country's new tourist e-visa.
The recently signed MoU comes as NEOM officials are planning to host the first-ever electronic sports event in the city. As a major player in the agreement, SAFEIS' long term goal is to grant the Saudi gaming community access to global platforms.
This is a much-needed move in a country where 21 percent of youth participate in online sports gaming every week. According to local officials, this form of online gaming is rising in popularity among Saudi Arabia's tech-savvy population.
A capital for electronic sports in the making
In an official statement, the Chairman of Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS) Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Bin Sultan said:
"NEOM has all the potentials to become the world capital for electronic sports and the federation is committed to be NEOM’s partner in its journey to achieve this goal. NEOM is the land of the future and the federation is the gateway to the future generation and sports."
The director-general of the city's general sports sector, Jean Patterson, expressed his excitement over the historic MoU.
"We see electronic sports as an important part of what we will offer at NEOM. It reflects our ambition to make NEOM the preferred destination for living in and tourism for the youth, who form the majority of those who love electronic sports. We are happy to cooperate with the Saudi Federation to achieve our goals," he explained.
Sports are taking center stage in NEOM
Launched by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in 2017, NEOM is a megacity that will operate independently from the kingdom's "existing governmental framework."
At the time of its launching, it was revealed that the project is set to focus on nine industries including, energy and water, mobility, biotech, food, technological and digital sciences, advanced manufacturing, media, and entertainment.
Now, officials behind the project have also added sports to the list and are adamant about making NEOM a center for world tournaments.
Earlier this year, the city hosted one of its first officially-endorsed sports events — a Wakeboard championship organized by the city's officials and the International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation (IWWF).
But, sports activities in NEOM won't be limited to offline events because e-sports are going to be a huge part of plans.