Demands for release of Saudi activist as Kingdom hosts Spanish Super Cup

    Women from Amnesty International protest outside the Saudi embassy in Madrid.

    (CNN)Most Real Madrid fans will focus on the team's 3-1 victory over Valencia that marked the start of the new-look Spanish Super Cup, hosted for the first time in Saudi Arabia.

    But there's another statistic that loomed, undermining the joy fans may have felt: Wednesday also marked the 600th day of confinement for Saudi women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul.
    The Saudi venue in Jeddah inaugurates one of several departures for the Spanish Super Cup.
      For example, for the first time, the Cup features four teams rather than two, with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Valencia competing.
      It's the Saudi location, however -- far from Spain and rife with political repercussions -- that's causing the biggest stir.
      Indeed, the list of sporting events staged in Saudi Arabia is growing, including two Formula E races and the world heavyweight title fight between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz.
      In the build-up to Joshua's December rematch with Ruiz, Amnesty International UK's Head of Campaigns, Felix Jakens, said the event was another attempt by Saudi Arabia at "sportswashing," when governments use the hosting of major events to divert attention away from human rights issues.
      Portraits of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz are displayed during the Spanish Super Cup semi final between Valencia and Real Madrid.
      "We've increasingly seen Gulf countries seek prestige and bolster their international reputations by hosting major sporting events," Adam Coogle, Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch, told CNN ahead of Joshua's fight.
      "Unfortunately, many of these sporting events take place without these countries addressing the root causes of their reputational problems such as longstanding and systematic human rights abuses against political dissidents and activists, foreign migrant workers, and women."
      The Ge