February 25, 2024

Climbing professionals criticize IFSC for hosting NEOM Masters in Saudi Arabia

In an open letter, more than 110 professional athletes and climbers criticized the International Sport Climbing Federation (IFSC). The impetus was the NEOM Masters, a rock climbing and speed racing competition organized by the IFSC at the end of November as part of Saudi Arabia’s controversial $1 billion NEOM project.

Adam Ondra, Joson Perezjárto, Tommy Caldwell, Catherine Destivelle, Margot Hayes, Alex Migos and Kilian Jornet – the list of climbing greats who criticized the IFSC in an open letter from ACTS For Our Summits is long. More than 110 professional climbers and organizations accuse the International Climbing Squad of allowing Saudi Arabia to exploit them through the IFSC NEOM Masters tournament.

The climbing community cannot accept that its association supports the project of the Saudi dictatorial regime. A project that leads to violent expropriation, the killing of political opponents and the irreversible destruction of ecosystems.

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Sport climbing as part of a very questionable project

NEOM, the $500 billion Saudi megaproject on the Red Sea coast, is highly controversial. Amnesty International and independent human rights organizations speak of greenwashing, widespread lobbying, and property seizures in relation to the planned megacity. NEOM is an environmental disaster and violates human rights.

Many people are upset that the IFSC is promoting the NEOM project with a bouldering and speed competition on 22-24 November 2023. One wonders what the IFSC Ethics Committee will think when it is decided that climbing will be part of the NEOM Beach Games.

We believe that through this event, the International Federation of Sport Climbing is living up to its vision of “Make the world a better place through sport climbing”, its mission to “promote sport climbing through sustainable events” and its values ​​of “protecting the environment”. . had become.

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Video: This is how Saudi Arabia presents the NEOM project

Signatories to the open letter call on the IFSC to better align its strategic planning for 2020-2028 with current environmental and social challenges.

This is what ACTS requires from IFSC:

  • Establish and fund an independent Environment and Ethics Committee to ensure IFSC adheres to its environmental values.
  • Refrain from partnering with companies that have been shown to have a significant negative impact on the environment and people. Specifically, ACTS calls for the end of partnerships with Japan Airlines and Toyo Tire.
  • Commitment of all IFSC Board members and key stakeholders to participate in a comprehensive educational program on the environmental and climate crisis, as well as awareness-raising activities for international athletes and coaches.

As a community, we firmly believe that climbing should remain an ethical sport. The environmental crisis is the toughest climb we face, let’s overcome it together.

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Credits: Cover image NEOMGames