Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

There was an explosion of joy at the podium when Antonio Felix da Costa lifted the winner’s trophy at the conclusion of the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 16 December 2018
0

Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

  • Three-day event at Ad Diriyah reaches spectacular climax in an unprecedented spirit of openness

AD DIRIYAH: The driver with the winner’s trophy was Antonio Felix da Costa — but the real winners were Saudi Arabia itself, and more than 1,000 tourists visiting the country for the first time.

Da Costa, the Andretti Motorsport driver, won the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix in front of thousands of race fans at a custom-built track in the historic district on the outskirts of Riyadh.

But in truth, the event was about much more than high-tech electric cars hurtling round a race track — thrilling though that was. The three-day festival of motorsport, culture and entertainment was Saudi Arabia’s chance to prove that it can put on a show to rival anything in the world, and which only two years ago would have been unthinkable.

The event was also the first to be linked to the Sharek electronic visa system, allowing foreigners other than pilgrims or business visitors to come to Saudi Arabia.

Jason, from the US, is spending a week in the country with his German wife, riding quad bikes in the desert and visiting heritage sites. “I’ve always wanted to come for many, many years ... I’m so happy to be here and that they’re letting us be here,” he said.

Aaron, 40, a software engineer, traveled from New York for two days. “Saudi Arabia has always been an exotic place ... and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to come here,” he said.

About 1,000 visitors used the Sharek visa, a fraction of what Saudi Arabia aims eventually to attract. 

“Hopefully we will learn from this and see what we need to do for the future, but I can tell you from now that there is a lot of demand,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, vice chairman of the General Sports Authority.

His optimism was backed by Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and a visitor to Ad Diriyah. “Such events will attract tourists and are a true celebration for young Saudis who desire a bright future,” he said.

“The vision of moderate Islam, promoted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is important both for the region and the entire world, and its realization needs to be appreciated, respected and supported.”

The event ended on Saturday night with a spectacular show by US band OneRepublic and the superstar DJ David Guetta. “Just when you think things can’t get better, they suddenly do,” said concertgoer Saleh Saud. “This is the new Saudi Arabia, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.”


GEA and Misk launch ‘Entertainment Pioneers’ program

Updated 26 June 2019
0

GEA and Misk launch ‘Entertainment Pioneers’ program

RIYADH: The General Authority for Entertainment (GEA) launched its “Entertainment Pioneers” program, in partnership with the Initiatives Center at the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation (Misk).

The program aims to prepare citizens, and especially fresh graduates, to work with the most renowned international companies in the field of entertainment, to gain experience, develop their skills in the field, and enable them to integrate this sector and contribute to its development and prosperity.

The program is part of GEA’s strategy to develop the sector of entertainment in accordance with the best international standards, and to provide it with qualified national competencies in this field, to meet the objectives of the Quality of Life program, a basic part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

The first stage of the program will kick off in collaboration with a leading American entertainment company that employs 44,000 people worldwide, and that has a record of more than 30,000 entertainment programs and 100 festivals, with its sales surpassing of 500 million tickets per year.

In addition, various international companies are participating in the event, in order to train Saudis in the tasks of planning, organization and management of entertainment programs and projects.

As part of its plans to develop and increase the size of local content in the entertainment sector, GEA is launching several other initiatives to train Saudi cadres develop their skills, and to integrate the job market especially in small and medium enterprises in the field of entertainment.

For registration a webpage was set on the link: https://misk.org.sa/fellowship/services/live-nation/