Danish tournament organiser BLAST has announced a partnership with Saudi Arabia to help shape its in-development NEOM city into a regional esports hub.
Designed as an almost utopian city intended to feature smart technologies and draw in innovators from around the world, NEOM is expected to complete its first segment by 2025.
Jan Paterson, Managing Director of NEOM Sport, commented in a release: “NEOM aims to become a global hub for sport that unites communities, enables active, balanced lifestyles and accelerates innovation. Esports is growing at a rapid pace and NEOM is perfectly positioned to become the regional esports hub. We are excited about the experience and benefits NEOM can bring to the industry. 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.”
BLAST, the firm behind BLAST Premier for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and the recent BLAST Bounty Hunt for Dota 2, will advise on the creation of the aforementioned esports academy as well as the expansion of the esports within the wider Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
According to a tweet from BLAST, the partnership will also span a NEOM-themed map for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, as well as educational work placements at future BLAST events. BLAST CEO Robbie Douek categorised the partnership as “a record deal” for the company.
Douek commented: “Esports is at the centre of NEOM’s exciting plans for Sport; we’re delighted to be able to assist them in shaping this long-term goal. This is a record deal for BLAST and testament to our recent growth and standing in the industry right now. We have a strong track record when it comes to producing global events that encompass a leading broadcast product and inspire lovers of esports. We hope to leverage this knowledge and expertise to help build a first-in-class partnership that will allow NEOM to create a thriving esports ecosystem.”
BLAST held a flagship event in the Middle East in December, hosting its BLAST Pro Series Grand Final in bordering Bahrain. The cross-border NEOM is backed by $500 billion in funding from Saudi Arabia, and aims to attract some 1 million people to live and work in the eventually-completed city.
Esports Insider says: NEOM is a unique and incredibly ambitious project that will be driven by a lot of new and innovative technology. This is a very different kind of partnership for BLAST, although as Douek suggested, it sounds like a rather valuable one for the firm – especially in a time without its usual live events.