Danish esports event organizer BLAST has announced its partnership with Saudi Arabian futuristic mega-city NEOM. The news came hours after the League of Legends European Championship also announced the same deal with NEOM. Although fans shared some mixed reactions, BLAST CEO Robbie Douek stands by the ground-breaking partnership, stating there’s more to come.
On Wednesday morning, BLAST shared news regarding a controversial deal made with Saudi Arabia. Its sponsorship with NEOM comes as a surprise to the CS:GO community as BLAST shares future projects and events. The release begins by stating the deal will “propel the growth of esports in Saudi Arabia,” while signifying NEOM’s commitment to the esports community. Additionally, NEOM has goals of eventually becoming the esports regional hub.
Today we announce a global partnership with @NEOM, an ambitious project that includes building a major esports ecosystem in the heart of what will be the new future of living!
— BLAST Premier (@BLASTPremier) July 28, 2020
The mega-city, managed by the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, has an estimated project budget of $500 billion. The aim of the project is to bring game and technology development, esports academies, and more to the Middle East.
“We are excited about the experience and benefits NEOM can bring to the industry,” said Jan Paterson, NEOM Sport Managing Director. “We will have an advanced technological base and venues designed specifically for esports. In addition, we aim to inspire the development of young Saudi and international talent through a fully immersive esports academy.”
Douek shared his excitement over the sponsorship, stating they’re “delighted to be able to assist them in shaping this long-term goal.” BLAST’s strong track record producing high-quality CS:GO events go hand-in-hand with NEOM’s overall objective.
Future plans for BLAST
As BLAST Premier shared the news via Twitter, the post listed a few projects in development. In addition to the NEOM partnership, there will soon be a NEOM Counter-Strike map, job opportunities in the Middle East, and an esports academy. NEOM’s plan to create an esports learning center will be made possible with the help of BLAST technology. The construction of an academy primarily passed on video games will be the first of its kind for the Kingdom.
In addition, BLAST states these projects will be led and funded by people from all over the world.
Mixed reactions from fans
Similar to the reactions received by the LEC, fans have shown disappointment with BLAST’s decision to work with Saudi Arabia. One Twitter user called NEOM a “surveillance city,” while others spoke up on the country’s anti-LGBTQ views. Moreover, the site is planned for construction on the land of a native Saudi tribe, the Huwaitat tribe. At least 20 thousand members on the land currently face eviction with uncertain plans on where to go next.
— Cronista do Csgo (@cronista_do) July 29, 2020
This isn’t the first time BLAST has worked in the Middle East, as they hosted their 2019 Global Final in Bahrain.
BLAST declined to provide additional comments to Daily Esports.