A performance from the opening ceremony of the Riyadh Season. Image Credit: X/@RiyadhSeason

Cairo: The fourth edition of the Riyadh Season, a flagship annual Saudi entertainment and tourist event, kicked off Saturday night with a grand opening and massive audience including entertainers and athletes from around the globe.

The Season’s diverse events, running for months, are taking place in 12 venues in Riyadh, featuring concerts by world celebrities, theatrical shows, a football museum and restaurants serving a variety of mouth-watering international cuisine.

New venues for this year’s edition include the state-of-the area Boulevard Hall set up on an area of 200,000 square metres and can accommodate up to 40,000 visitors.

The season also features the “Wonder Garden”, a super entertainment city boasting 70 different games and global gardens.

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Officially opening the event that followed musical and dance shows, Chairman of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority (GEA) Turki Alalsheikh promised a “a very special season”.

The opening night comprised an epic fight that saw British boxer Tyson Fury outrivaling former world champion in mixed martial arts Francis Ngannou in a 10-round showdown dubbed as the “battle of the baddest”.

Last month, Alasheikh said they expect 10-12 million visitors at this year’s Riyadh Season.

He added that 40 per cent of the anticipated revenue from the event has already been achieved through sponsorship deals.

Launched in 2019, the Riyadh season is meant to turn the city into as a global entertainment and tourist destination.

The second edition of the festival kicked off in October 2021 after it was suspended the previous year due to the global pandemic. The third was unveiled in October 2022.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has sought to boost its entertainment industry as part of efforts to diversify its oil-independent economy.

In this regard, a string of concerts, cinema, theatrical shows and competitions have been staged, drawing large audiences from inside and outside the kingdom.

In May 2016, the kingdom created the General Entertainment Authority, a state agency that has since sponsored a slew of stellar concerts, stage shows and festivals.