We were talking, a fellow expat and I, just last night about how Saudi Arabia lacks physical-ness. The general consensus from western sporty types is that Saudi's are, in short, soft. It reminded me of a blog post I started to write a long while back (over two years ago by my calculations), but never finished, which is sometimes what happens to my posts. I throw them onto the draft page in a rush of bleh! and then let them lie. Here's how that post started...
This post was going to go on about the difference in attitude to physical activity for children and adults in Saudi Arabia (well, my part of Riyadh anyways), and the almost total lack of participation by the parents with their kids games.
I could continue my ramble about the lack of physicality in Saudi (as I had intended to do initially), but I won't. That would be extremely negative and today is a beautiful day - like most days in Saudi - so instead I'll ply you avid readers with positive situation updates. (Did I hear some of you say 'Buggar that...I want Gossip! You are Sad People!)
Here's some updates.
- In December 2012 this article was printed in the Arab News '1,000 Youth Clubs To Be Set Up'. It is hoped the new clubs will 'help youth practice their hobbies and engage in social, cultural and sports activities' and 'develop their skills and capabilities'.
- In May 2013 this report, 'Saudi allows some girls' schools to offer sport' was a step toward physical education for girls in private schools and a month later...
- Saudi officially opened its first sports center for women.
Also opened in Riyadh recently are children's activity centers like My Gym and, coming soon, Gymboree.
All these initiatives have my support (not that they need my support, but I'm just saying). It all sounds very positive and there is hope that these programs will encourage Saudi folks off the couch and out of the shopping malls from a very young age.
The party line handed down to the locals for the implementation of these activity centers is along the lines of 'health and wellness'. However, I get the feeling the point of the youth clubs, women's sports centers and kiddie gyms isn't just to cater to the issues of bored youth and obesity related health issues plaguing the country at the moment. The real point is to harden up Saudi Arabia's future generations and nip in the bud the current, generally accepted idea that Saudi's lack the characteristics needed to grow their country in the hard times ahead, because all predictions are harder times are comin!
I'm talking about the stuff pioneers of the past possessed when they left their homes in search of something better. Things like courage, daring, fortitude, work ethic, dedication, commitment, self-determination, creativity, patience, strength. The ability to endure hardships and set backs, to persevere. Never giving up. Having grit. Thinking outside the square. Problem solving. Taking the bull by the horns. Knowing how to co-operate with others and truly respecting others as you work towards a common goal. Knowing how to respond to victory and, just as importantly, how to regroup and start again after a defeat.
That kind of stuff.
Isn't it amazing what sport has the potential to do for a country!
I get the feeling that the joke going around that Saudi has Pakistan in its back pocket to fight its battles because the locals would run away from a fight is like grit in the mouth to some local leaders. (A number of folks I've spoken to on the ground are perfectly happy with that plan because anything that reduces the number of Pakistani's in the world suits them just fine, thanks!)
Anyway... back on track.
It's great that the Powers That Be of Saudi Arabia are doing their bit for Saudi's future through providing youth clubs and sports centers for all, regardless of their actual reasons for it. Next step is to get the parents involved in their children's activities and tell the maids to back off!