First the madness. The Saudi Arabians have announced they want to build a tourist industry. Notwithstanding the marching visitors’ feet everywhere, with retired accountants being escorted atop camels across the Gobi desert and Woolongong plumbers filling ocean liners, this will be a tough sell.
To open the batting the Saudis have been suckered into forking out millions to host high interest prize fights. Thus next Sunday they’re staging the return Joshua-Ruiz heavyweight bout in which, reflecting public interest, the two not very good protagonists are reputedly receiving $100 million each.
Here’s the marvelous bit. To stage the fight the Saudis have built a smart 15,000 seat stadium in -wait for it- exactly 56 days. That’s less than 2 months.
In New Zealand one couldn’t build a garden shed in that time, simply because it would take longer to get the Council permit.
But tourism-promoting-wise, will it work? History says no. Back in 1974 the ratbag Zaire (now Congo) dictator was conned into forking out the necessary to host the Ali-Foreman fight. And the following year the same thing happened with Malaysia for Ali-Bugner. Then a few months later, in Manila with Ali-Fraser. I suspect in the latter case, Marcos was seeking personal publicity as Phillipines tourism needed no encouragement. Actually I sat ringside with Norman Mailer for that bout while Marcos, Imelda and their pretty daughter, were (literally) enthroned, right behind us. Meanwhile, near half a century later the Congo is still waiting for the promised tourist influx.
I suspect the Saudis are wasting their money, unless of course they display a few unique Saudi cultural attractions. For starters they could have burqa clad ringcard girls, but a real killer (forgive the pun) would be to bang in some head-lopping executions on the undercard. Such an initiative would certainly garner the sought global attention.