Female athletes topped the bill this week at an extreme sports extravaganza held to launch the world’s most ambitious project, located in the Northwest of Saudi Arabia.
Bouldering world champion Juliane Wurm joined Saudi female rock-climbing star Yasmin Ghatani to kick off a one-day event of rock-climbing, wingsuiting and BASE jumping conceived to showcase the pristine beauty of NEOM.
Lead climber Yasmin Ghatani, managing director of the Saudi Climbing and Hiking Federation, said that she was thrilled to have been asked to participate in an event which encapsulates NEOM’s ethos of finding, empowering and encouraging talented individuals.
“Being a woman, I’m very honoured to be here and very happy to have NEOM support,” she said. “Rock climbing in Saudi Arabia used to be seen very much as a male-dominated sport, but the government is supporting female athletes 100%, and that helps the Saudi community to believe in women.”
Development of this 26,600 km2 wilderness of desert, mountains, valleys, islands, coast and coral reefs will begin in weeks. NEOM is the flagship project of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 post-oil diversification program, and CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr said the choice of an extreme sports event to bring global attention to what has been described as “the world’s most ambitious project” was especially apt.
“NEOM is all about the unusual and the unexpected. It stands for a new future where women are equal to men and, as one of the key elements of NEOM, sport is an ideal way to show that equality. NEOM is futuristic, risky and daring and it’s more than a dream: it’s a plan.”
“The reason we chose extreme adventure sports at the first event in NEOM is because it’s a beautiful environment,” explained Jason Harborow, Managing Director of NEOM’s Future of Sport sector. “Sport is right at the centre of what we want to achieve at NEOM, and that means sport for all: male, female, children, athletes with disabilities. NEOM will be for everybody.”
It was German-born climber Juliane Wurm’s first visit to Saudi Arabia. “There’s huge potential here,” she said. “I’m surprised and excited to see how this is going to evolve.”
Head Wingsuit Pilot Sam Hardy, British medallist at the World Wingsuit League, was equally thrilled. “I can 100% see NEOM being the place for extreme sports whether is its climbing, skydiving or kite surfing. The landscape, the mountains, the sand areas, the ocean, are like nothing I have seen before. That’s what makes NEOM special and unique.”