Saudi Arabia and Formula One in talks over F1 race

Bahrain will host the second round of this year’s season, and Abu Dhabi will hold the final rounds. (File/AFP)
Updated 07 August 2019

Saudi Arabia and Formula One in talks over F1 race

  • The Times said an F1 race in Saudi Arabia may become a reality by 2021
  • The Middle East host two at Sakhir in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina

LONDON: Saudi Arabia and Formula One are discussing the possibility of holding a race in the country, and team bosses have been asked for an opinion, sources said on Tuesday.
The Times newspaper reported that Formula One and the 10 teams would seek reassurance on issues including human rights, gender equality and media freedom before any race could happen.
Multiple informed sources confirmed to Reuters the substance of the report.
They added, however, that Formula One had discussions with many would-be hosts around the world which ultimately came to nothing.
The Times suggested a Saudi race could become a reality as soon as 2021, with the schedule already expected to stretch to a record 22 races in 2020.
Formula One and the teams are discussing major sporting and technical rule changes from 2021 and Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto said in Hungary at the weekend that could see an expansion to 24 races.
A Formula One source said that was more to allow flexibility, replacing the existing rule that states teams must agree to expand the calendar beyond 21 races rather than being a target number. The Middle East already hosts two races, at Sakhir in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina, with lucrative long-term contracts in place.
Bahrain was the first in 2004 but the race has proved controversial, with rights groups accusing the country’s rulers of using it to ‘whitewash’ abuses and improve their image abroad.
The kingdom lifted a ban on women driving only last year.
Formula One published a commitment in 2015 to respect “internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally”. Should the talks with Saudi Arabia move up a level, the kingdom would likely be looking at a third regional slot.
This year, Bahrain was the second round of the season after Australia, while Abu Dhabi will be the final round in early December.
Any Saudi race would likely need to be separated from the other two regional rivals to protect their investment and the uniqueness of the event.
Formula One is broadcast live and free-to-air in the Middle East and North Africa region under a five-year deal struck last March with MBC Group, founded by Saudi businessman Waleed Al-Ibrahim.
The rights previously belonged to Qatar’s BeIN media group, which blamed broadcast piracy of its pay TV feed as a reason for not renewing.
Saudi Arabia already features on the all-electric Formula E calendar and hosted its first race last year on a street circuit at Ad Diriyah, near Riyadh.
Saudi companies have been involved in Formula One in the past, with Albilad and the national airline Saudia sponsoring Williams to their first title in 1980. Formula One’s US-based commercial rights holders Liberty Media have stated already that they want to add races in the United States, with Miami in line to join the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, and China — both key markets for the sport’s growth.
There have also been talks with Argentina, South Africa and Morocco, with Africa the only major inhabited continent currently without a race.
Europe, the sport’s historic heartland, currently has 11 rounds of the championship when Russia and Azerbaijan are included.


Two new academies to boost Saudi arts, heritage and music

Updated 19 August 2019

Two new academies to boost Saudi arts, heritage and music

  • One academy specializing in heritage and traditional arts and crafts will start receiving applications in autumn 2020
  • A second academy dedicated to music will receive 1,000 students and trainees from 2021

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is to set up arts academies, including two in the next two years, offering a step toward academic qualification and enlarging the Kingdom’s footprint in heritage, arts and crafts, and music.

The initiative is part of the Ministry of Culture’s Quality of Life program. 

The minister, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan, said investment in “capacity building” was one of the most important elements in encouraging the cultural sector, which enjoyed unlimited support from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Kingdom was rich in diverse arts, talents and artistic production, Prince Badr said, and the academies would be a first step toward academic qualification in the arts within the Kingdom.

One academy specializing in heritage and traditional arts and crafts will start receiving applications in autumn 2020, targeting 1,000 students and trainees in long- and short-term programs. 

A second academy dedicated to music will receive 1,000 students and trainees from 2021.

The music academy in particular will be “the core of music production and talent development in Saudi Arabia,” Saudi musician, composer and producer Mamdouh Saif told Arab News.

The music industry was a large and diverse field, Saif said, and education was crucial. 

“The academy is the right place to launch the music industry in Saudi Arabia, and it will have a significant impact on Saudi youth, and young people in surrounding countries,” he said.

He expects “a very high turnout” for the academy among young Saudis. 

“Due to my expertise in this area, I receive many questions from people who want to learn music, but through private lessons,” he said.

“But the availability of an academy for this purpose, that teaches music in a methodological way, will be the right start for those interested in music.”