Saudi Arabia announced on Wednesday it plans to bid to host the 2034 World Cup, the latest step in a campaign to turn the kingdom into a global sports powerhouse.
The bid “intends to deliver a world-class tournament and will draw inspiration from Saudi Arabia’s ongoing social and economic transformation and the country’s deep-rooted passion for football”, said a statement from the Saudi Arabian football federation.
News of the bid comes one year after neighbouring Qatar hosted the first World Cup in the Middle East, where the Saudi national team scored a stunning group stage victory over eventual winners Argentina.
The Saudi announcement came an hour after world football’s governing body FIFA released a statement giving its plans for the 2030 World Cup and inviting countries in the Asian Football Confederation to bid for 2034.
On the heels of the Qatar tournament, Saudi Arabia signed Cristiano Ronaldo to play in the Saudi Pro League, the first in a slew of major stars drawn by eye-watering salaries to the world’s biggest crude oil exporter.
Sport is a major component of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform agenda, which aims to transform Saudi Arabia into a tourism and business hub while transitioning the economy away from fossil fuels.