SOURCE: Arab News
Time: March 3, 2018
Saudi Arabia is counting on the power of sport to help drive its nation to economic victory, according to
“I am building an entire sports ecosystem: From the athletes, to the female ushers, and security guards, we’re going from the micro to the macro to the triple macro. Every sector in the country requires a down chain,” the princess told the Chatham House think-tank in London.
“Sport impacts every industry sector across the board and it will draw in crowds globally.”
Since last October, the Princess has headed the Saudi Federation for Community Sports (SFCS) and is the vice president for Development and Planning at the Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority. Princess Reema is the first woman in Saudi Arabia to head such a federation. As chief of SFCS she has the task of developing a sports ecosystem in the Kingdom, largely from scratch.
She said: “From the staff who clean the machines, to the trainers, to the doctors, to the athletes, everything to do with sports must be included in the future planning of the country — that’s my job.”
This year has already seen significant sports advances in the Kingdom as restrictions on women watching and playing sport have been lifted. Females can now attend football matches, pump iron in gyms, partake in sports themselves, and girls can take physical education classes in school.
Since Princess Reema took up her role, she has played a part in helping to mobilize women’s sport. “I’ve encouraged women to go out on the streets and into the public parks to exercise. I’ve been telling women they don’t need permission to exercise in public, they don’t need permission to activate their own sports programs. And more and more they are doing it.”
Some National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020 initiatives under Princess Reema’s extensive remit are: The promotion of sports and physical activities; improved return on investment in sports clubs and facilities; and enabling Saudi elite athletes to achieve high performance on a sustainable basis in different sports.
As well as targeting significantly improved performance at international sporting games, there is a heavy emphasis in the NTP initiatives on improving sports infrastructure and grassroots facilities through the addition of women’s sports facilities, and through local communities, where previously investment has been very limited generally.
Princess Reema said: “The choices that women have today are greater than yesterday and every day they will grow more.”
She said she is working on licensing women’s gyms throughout the Kingdom. “The gyms have always been there but they were grey market and unregulated. We’ve created the formal structure for the licensing of women gyms and by putting them into the light we can regulate them,” she said.
The princess said the Kingdom now has 47 live gyms and she is targeting the licensing of 500 medium-sized gyms by June. She estimates that each gym will directly employ around eight people. “That’s already 4,000 jobs for women,” she said. “Then when you add the indirect jobs, such as trainers, the number goes up further.”