Saudi Arabia’s e-visa system goes live with Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix tickets sale

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The new Gen2 Formula E car, being showcased on the sidelines of the press conference in Ad Diriyah. (Center for International Communication (CIC), Ministry of Media, Saudi Arabia)
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His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Vice-Chair of Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority; and Felipe Massa, Venturi Team Driver, at an official press conference on Tuesday, September 25, to launch the Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix, which will be staged at a stunning UNESCO heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh on 15th December 2018. Tickets for the event, now open to international visitors for the first time, are on sale at www.sharek.sa/formulae now. (Sportscode)
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The new Gen2 Formula E car, being showcased on the sidelines of the press conference in Ad Diriyah. (Center for International Communication (CIC), Ministry of Media, Saudi Arabia)
Updated 30 September 2018

Saudi Arabia’s e-visa system goes live with Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix tickets sale

  • The platform offers a seamless ticket purchase and online visa application process for sporting fans from around the world
  • The venue of the event, the ancient city of Ad Diriyah, the first seat of power for Saudi’s Kings, is itself a draw for international tourists

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority (GSA) on Sunday announced details of its new electronic visa system, Sharek, which has gone live and will allow international motor racing fans to travel to the Kingdom for the December 15 Formula E race, the Saudia Ad Diriyah E Prix near Riyadh.

“Saudi Arabia is very excited to be inviting international tourists into Kingdom for the first time as tickets for the Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix go on sale via its new visa platform new  Sharek,” GSA said in a statement.

Described as a ‘milestone’ for Saudi Arabia, www.sharek.sa/formulae has gone live. In a first move to open its borders to international visitors, GSA announced last Tuesday the launch of Sharek. 

The platform offers a seamless ticket purchase and online visa application process for sporting fans from around the world wanting to experience the biggest festival of racing, live music and entertainment, including thrilling action on the track and global superstars performing on stage over three days at historical Ad Diriyah, on the outskirts of Riyadh.

With the tickets for the December 15 event now on sale, His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Vice-Chair of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority, said: “This is an exciting milestone for us. When you host international championships, you have international fans who want to attend. And, of course, the best way to see Saudi Arabia is to visit through sports, this isn’t just the first way, it is the best way.

“I want them to see Saudi Arabia, I want them to see my country, I want them to meet the people and to see who we really are. The best way for people to see the real Saudi Arabia is to come and this is their chance. We are very welcoming and I’m sure people will have a different point of view when they do.

“We are very lucky to have the support of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and hopefully this will be the starting point of more events and more accessibility for fans and for people who want to visit the Kingdom.”

The venue of the event, the ancient city of Ad Diriyah, the first seat of power for Saudi’s Kings, is itself a draw for international tourists, being a stunning UNESCO heritage site. Via www.sharek.sa/formulae, travelers who buy a ticket for the race can obtain a 14-day visa for SAR640, the equivalent of approximately $170.

That allows for full entrance to the event, free mobility within specific Saudi territories. Applicants simply need to complete their personal details online, upload a photograph and a copy of their passport, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will then confirm eligibility within seconds. After payment, the visa will be emailed to the international traveler and this can be printed off and used to enter Saudi Arabia. The Holy cities of Makkah and Madinah remain off-limits to non-Muslim travelers.

Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E, said: “We are the first event that will be enjoying this new system of visa, only by buying a ticket for the race you can come into Saudi Arabia with a visa. I think this means another element of how Saudi Arabia is opening up for tourism. I think that is a great change.”

Princess Haifa al Saud, secretary general of the Formula E local organising committee, said: “For the first time we get to show the world what Saudi Arabia is really about from the inside, to see our youth, to feel the energy that we have, to understand us more, our culture, our tradition, our background.

“They will see how full of energy and life we are and how much we are excited to host such an event here in our country.”

Tickets for the Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix start from SAR395 for a seat in the grandstand and concert access and are available at www.sharek.sa/formulae. International travelers are limited to one ticket per visa.


Djokovic not worried about blisters ahead of US Open

Updated 25 August 2019

Djokovic not worried about blisters ahead of US Open

  • When the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain

NEW YORK: During a break in practice two days before opening his US Open title defense, Novak Djokovic pulled off his blue shoe and white sock so a trainer could look at his right foot.

Did it again a little while later.

And then, toward the end of Saturday’s training session in Louis Armstrong Stadium with 2014 runner-up Kei Nishikori, Djokovic stopped a sprint and pulled up short of a ball, raised his right leg off the ground entirely and hopped repeatedly on his left, wincing. Nothing to worry about, Djokovic said later at his pre-tournament news conference: Just blisters.

“A minor thing,” Djokovic called it. “Like anybody has ... Nothing major that is causing a concern for the event.”

When the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena, a 26-year-old from Spain whose career-best ranking was 72nd.

Carballes Baena has an overall career record of 43-50. That includes 2-7 at major tournaments, 1-1 at Flushing Meadows, where he made his debut a year ago and lost in the second round.

Djokovic, meanwhile, has won 33 of his past 34 Grand Slam matches en route to collecting four of the past five major titles. That allowed the 32-year-old Serb to raise his career haul to 16 trophies, putting him just two away from second-place Rafael Nadal’s total of 18, and Roger Federer’s 20, which is the record for men.

He’s not shy about trying to catch those guys.

“More or less everything is about Grand Slams, in terms of how I see tennis and how I approach it, because they matter the most,” Djokovic said. “So I will definitely try to play my best tennis — and aim to play my best tennis — at these events.”

And while many would attribute Djokovic's success to his ability to return serves, say, or his mental strength and propensity for coming up big in the biggest moments — such as saving two match points along the way to edging Federer in a fifth-set tiebreaker in the Wimbledon final last month — there's something else the man himself would point to as his most vital quality.

That's the way Djokovic can cover a court, which is why the state of that right foot is actually a rather big deal.

His movement, Djokovic said Saturday, is "the base of everything" and "the most important thing."

"It just allows you to be more in balance. And at the end of the day, that is what you're looking for as a tennis player," he explained. "How can you hit the ball, being in the right balance, so you can penetrate the ball with the right speed, accuracy and precision?"

Watch Djokovic during a match, and you'll see him change direction in a heartbeat, twist and turn, contort his limbs, slide — on clay, on grass, even on hard courts — always getting to the right spot at the right time.

He attributes his strength in that area to the flexibility of his ankles and is grateful he used to participate in another sport while growing up back home in Serbia.

"I credit my childhood spent on the skis. I used to spend a lot of time skiing," Djokovic said. "That had an effect as well, with kind of coordination and changing movement from one side to another. Even though they're different sports, in essence, you're using some major muscle groups and joints and stuff like this in most of the sports."

It is Djokovic's right elbow that gave him the most trouble a couple of seasons ago.

He missed the last half of 2017, including that year's US Open because that arm was bothering him, then wound up having surgery in February 2018. It took some time for Djokovic to get going after that. All's good these days, though.

"Novak had a couple years where he didn't seem like the same guy," ESPN's John McEnroe said. "Now he's back with a vengeance."

Only 1½ months have passed since Djokovic edged Federer in that classic title match at the All England Club.

Not a lot of time to savor the victory. Not a lot of time to rest a weary body.

"This sport can be a little bit 'cruel,'" Djokovic said, using fingers to indicate air quotes, "when it comes to, I guess, marveling or celebrating your own success. You don't have that much luxury of time to really reflect on everything because the season keeps going."