The State operation is unprecedented. Saudi Arabia has already invested 8 billion dollars, but it still has 30 billion more to spend. It is rapidly developing a highly competitive men’s sports industry that has an impact on the global markets for transfers and broadcasting rights in football, tennis, Formula 1 and golf. It is like the bread and circuses of the Roman emperors, an instrument to mask Saudi despotism from the population, based on Islamic rigorism and the enslavement of women. Also a political weapon, to wash the external face of the regime.
This is a country that produces nothing, that is not even capable of guaranteeing its own security, always entrusted to the United States. Nor has it been able to build an Administration and security forces in keeping with the times, as demonstrated by the savage method of controlling its borders with Yemen, where Ethiopian refugees are received with gunfire. The same thing happens with the internet and social networks, where any small dissent can be punished with the death penalty, as happened to the retired teacher Mohammed bin Nasser al-Ghamdi, convicted for messages critical of the regime on social networks, where he only had ten followers.
These investments coincide with a vast diplomatic offensive, which includes joining the BRICS group with Iran, its ideological enemy, geopolitical rival and religious competitor, with which it has reestablished relations thanks to China. The Asian superpower, increasingly present and vigilant in the Middle East, is the sponsor and beneficiary of the expansion of the small group of countries that were considered emerging, now a heterogeneous union of middle powers conspired to confront the monetary and institutional power of States. Joined. And it does so after achieving diplomatic success by bringing together 40 countries at the Jeddah forum for peace in Ukraine, without Moscow but with Beijing.
Their most visible accomplices are athletes like Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema or Neymar, who will play in the competitions in exchange for fabulous contracts, but the benefits will extend to the entire European football world, the big clubs – some owned by Arab capital – and FIFA itself, as dominant as the oil autocracies, of which Riyadh is the world’s leading producer. Reminder: Telefónica, whose first shareholder is now the Saudi state company, also has interests in the world of sports rights.
These fabulous investments are carried out by the Saudi sovereign fund, fed by Aramco, the oil company that obtained the highest income in the world in 2022 thanks to the war in Ukraine. And they are also part of a great energy strategy, which consists of transforming the crude oil economy as slowly as possible under the pressure of emissions reduction policies, not only without losing a dollar but gaining many more. It is one of the darkest faces of the multipolar world into which we are entering.
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