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Saudi king to launch 'entertainment city' near Riyadh

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Riyadh: Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud will launch the construction of an "entertainment city" near Riyadh on Wednesday, authorities said, part of a series of multi-billion dollar projects.

The 334-sq-km project in Qiddiya, southwest of Riyadh, would include high-end theme parks, motor sport facilities and a safari park, officials say.

The facility highlights a "relentless effort to develop giga-projects that will help achieve many direct and indirect economic returns", project official Fahd bin Abdullah Tounsi was quoted as saying in a government statement on Monday.

Local and international officials, decision-makers, investors and representatives of regional and international companies, will attend the foundation stone-laying ceremony.

The first phase of the massive project will be completed by the year 2022, said Mr Tounsi.

“About two-thirds of the kingdom’s population is under the age of 35. There is a great need for Qiddiya Project to provide them with entertainment. The project will save about $30 billion, which will be used to develop the domestic economy and create new job opportunities for Saudi youth,” he added.

An amusement park set up by US Six Flags Entertainment Corporation will be the first project to be constructed at Qiddiya.

Qiddiya chief executive Michael Reininger said he expects the project will draw foreign investors in entertainment and other sectors, but did not specify the total cost of construction.

Such projects are the brainchild of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the chief architect of the "Vision 2030" reform programme.

Saudi Arabia has dazzled investors with several plans for hi-tech "giga projects", funded in part by its sovereign wealth fund.

The kingdom has unveiled blueprints to build NEOM, a mega project billed as a regional Silicon Valley, in addition to the Red Sea project, a reef-fringed resort destination - both worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

In February, Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority (GEA) announced it will stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number of last year, and pump $64 billion in the sector in the coming decade.

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