Riyadh’s Sports Boulevard will set the pace for Saudi Arabia’s vision 2030

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Riyadh’s Sports Boulevard
Riyadh’s Sports Boulevard Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is not wasting any time. Many countries have ten-year development plans, but none are as far-reaching and fast-paced as Vision 2030. The vision is not limited to simply weaning Saudi Arabia’s economy off oil; it is about raising the overall wellbeing of the Saudi people – an aim often overlooked in modern development projects.

Riyadh, the country’s capital, is at the vision’s centrepiece, with four mega-projects being launched to transform the city of almost 7 million people. One of these is the Sports Boulevard, which will be completed in 2027. It will stretch across 135km and while naturally dedicated primarily to sporting activities, will also include spaces for arts, culture, recreation, and environmental projects.

The scope of the project underlines just how big an impact Saudi wants to make with Vision 2030: 85km of biking trails for amateurs, 135km of biking trails for professionals, with various stops and rest areas for bikers such as repair shops, cafes, and sports stores.

Riyadh currently has a number of Olympic standard sporting facilities, including over 15 stadia, swimming pools and tennis courts, alongside hundreds of private sector sports facilities. However, with a growing population, Riyadh is looking to expand these facilities.

The focus on cycling has two motivations: firstly, for Saudi Arabia to host international and regional cycling events in the future, and secondly, to promote cycling as an alternative, environmentally friendly, and healthy means of transportation around the city.

Riyadh is the plural for the Arabic word ‘rawda,’ meaning garden or meadow, and Vision 2030 aims to make that word a reality and see the city bloom. The Sports Boulevard will include 3.5 million m 2 of green and open spaces. These areas will include 120,000 new trees that will be irrigated using only treated wastewater, and wooded walking trails around the whole project.

One million m 2 of land will be available for investors across a number of sectors to develop, and modern mosques will pepper the boulevard, adding a local flavour to a global project.

Tradition binding past and future

Saudi Arabia is proud of being the birthplace of Islam, and wants to develop in a way that shows the best of what Islam has to offer. To be fit is to be faithful. The Prophet Muhammad and his wife Aisha used to playfully engage in footraces with each other.

For this reason, the Sports Boulevard also pays tribute to country’s heritage. It will include a Sand Dunes Park Zone that will offer mountain and desert biking, as well as an equestrian centre and horse-riding ground covering over 1 million m 2 with 123km of horse-riding trails.

The zone will also contain one of the boulevard’s most distinctive landmarks: a huge monument made of curved cycling tracks that together will form the shape of a flower, rising up to 50m above the ground, allowing cyclists to take in breath-taking views from the top.

Big plans, small waistlines

Saudi Arabia can become a model of what a healthy country looks like in the region. Over half of Saudis are obese, with women having substantially higher rates than men. By 2022, 41.4% of men are projected to be obese, as will 77.6% of women, an average of 59.5%. Middle Eastern countries, especially those in the Arabian Gulf, dominate rankings of the top 20 most obese countries in the world.

The Sports Boulevard has more than enough to keep Saudis active. The boulevard will include a Sports Zone with 60 activity venues, including: 16 football fields, 18 indoor and 12 outdoor basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, and an ice rink.

Inside this Sport Zone, there will be a Sports Tower with certain areas dedicated exclusively to women. Venues here will include those for running, golfing, boxing, basketball, tennis, badminton, swimming, water-polo, climbing, shooting, and ice-hockey. There will also be a velodrome for bike races.

Riyadh’s Sports Boulevard seeks not only to change this reality, nor just to develop the city – but to propel Saudi Arabia into the 21 st century, and burn a few calories along the way.