Anthony Joshua That his presence in the desert this week has a lot to do with the influence of a Saudi princess who once ran Riyadh & # 39; s Harvey Nichols store and entertained Theresa May during a state visit
Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan born in the nation of the nation ruling House of Saud , has been at the heart of the desert land strategy to splash billions at sporting events such as Saturday's title fight between Joshua and Andy Ruiz to project itself onto the world stage and prove that it is not an archaic police state.
That need increased after a year ago Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist and dissident, was seized with a bone saw, killed and dismembered at his land consulate in Istanbul.
Princess Reema, 44, is an acceptable, articulated, US-educated face of her country, who has named Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman the seemingly obscure role of substitute for planning and development in Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority (GSA).
She has implied that she simply encouraged mass participation in a country where girls were excluded from PE lessons until two years ago.
But foreign registration documents have revealed that Princess Reema is a key figure in the work of the GSA to globally secure all sporting events such as & # 39; Clash on the Dunes & # 39; on Saturday to draw attention from the dubious state of human rights and to reduce chronic dependence on Saudi oil.
In collaboration with the LA-based lobby organization Churchill Ripley Group, Princess Reema has developed basketball in Saudi Arabia with Kobe Bryant, surfing the state with Sophie Goldschmidt, the chief executive of the World Surf League, and has met the Commissioner of the National Hockey League. Discussions are ongoing with Madison Square Garden about a & # 39; stadium infrastructure & # 39 ;.
& # 39; She is a very effective saleswoman for Saudi Arabia & # 39 ;, said a family lobbyist with her work. & # 39; Sport is seen as the way to redefine Saudi Arabia's image. She is westernized and refined. She speaks their language, literally, metaphorically. The title fight is a big win. It places Saudi Arabia in the same place as Abu Dhabi – continuing the conversation of human rights. & # 39;
It is hard to believe that Joshua, one of the more outspoken sports champions, is not aware of this. But boxing is not the only sport.
Days after the fight, to which Riyadh spent around £ 38 million, the state is organizing a £ 2.3 million tennis tournament with & # 39; eight of the best men in the world & # 39; & # 39;
In January, Saudi Arabia will host the Paris-Dakar Rally and receive Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Valencia for the Spanish Super Cup, to be played in Jeddah at the expense of the country from £ 30m to £ 34m per year in three years.
It is an insignificant amount for a state with the largest economy in the Middle East, which the UAE and Qatar can spend as part of what Prince Mohammed defines as his & # 39; Vision 2030 & # 39; – strategy.
But despite major social reforms that give women the right to drive, go to gyms and free them from permission from a male guardian or Wali to travel abroad, activists insist The killing of Khashoggi prompted Prince Mohammed to re-deploy Princess Reema in a new role as a Saudi ambassador to the US – the first time a woman was a fight for a brutal autocracy and a crackdown on dissidents
mentioned in such a post – in an attempt to smooth things out.
Countless women have reported fleeing Saudi Arabia to virtually escape slavery and abuse by men, brothers, and fathers – and then face surveillance and threats against families or business partners unless they report embassies in the countries that offer them asylum.
Last year, Prince Mohammed sanctioned the arrests of the most prominent female campaigners.
The princess, whose marriage to the Saudi prince with whom she has two children, was dissolved in 2012, flowing over Prince Mohammed's willingness to listen to the community & # 39 ;.
But her empathy for women in her country, who still have the c Onsent of a male guardian to leave prison, to leave a home for marriage or to marry, has limits.
Last year, the World Economic Forum said that allowing Saudi women to drive meant: & there is now no excuse for lack of productivity. A woman of today cannot say: & # 39; I could not find a driver. & # 39;
She added: & # 39; Please understand that the values we have differ. They are not right or wrong, and they must be honored. & # 39;
Amnesty International has the fight & # 39; Sportswashing & # 39; fought, but Joshua & # 39; s promoter Eddie Hearn said: & # 39; I don't understand that term & # 39; and when asked about it, people said rights that & # 39; above my head & # 39; and he was not worried about bringing the 30-year-old to the state.
& # 39; We follow organizations that are much larger than we & # 39 ;, he said. & # 39; Every promoter has been trying to land a mega fight in the Middle East for years. I did it and have a little bit of stick because we are pioneers. & # 39;