Saudi Arabia crown prince Mohammed bin Salman says he does not care about accusations of ‘sportswashing’.
The Gulf kingdom has been accused of investing in sport and using high-profile events to improve its international reputation.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) led the takeover of Newcastle United last year and launched LIV Golf.
“If sportswashing is going to increase my GDP by 1%, then we’ll continue doing sportswashing,” Bin Salman said.
He told Fox News: “I don’t care [about the term]. I have 1% growth in GDP from sport and I am aiming for another 1.5%.
“Call it what you want – we are going to get that 1.5%.”
Saudi Arabia has been criticised for its human rights violations – 81 men were executed on one day last year – women’s rights abuses, the restriction of free speech and the war in Yemen.
Its international standing was severely damaged by the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a US-based Saudi journalist who was a prominent critic of the government.
Human rights campaigners say sport is being used by the Saudi government to distract from long-standing reputation issues.
But Saudi authorities reject those accusations and say investment in sport is a key part of the ‘Vision 2030’ strategy.
The country’s sovereign wealth fund has estimated assets of $620bn.
Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan is the governor of PIF, which is controlled by Bin Salman.