Dakar Rally moves to ‘mysterious deserts’ of Saudi Arabia for 2020

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The Dakar Rally will be held in Saudi Arabia from 2020, organizers announced Monday. (Dakar Rally official website)
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Dakar director David Castera described the relocation to Saudi Arabia as "a voyage into the unknown.". (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 17 April 2019

Dakar Rally moves to ‘mysterious deserts’ of Saudi Arabia for 2020

  • The Dakar has been held in South America since 2009
  • Dakar director David Castera described the relocation to Saudi Arabia as "a voyage into the unknown"

LONDON: The Dakar Rally will be held in Saudi Arabia from 2020, organizers announced Monday, offering contestants an "unknown landscape and uncharted terrain".

"After 30 years of discovering the beauty of Africa and a decade of adventure exploring the spectacular landscape of South America, a new chapter in the history of Dakar will be written as the world's biggest rally makes its Middle East debut in Saudi Arabia," ASO said in a statement.

The Dakar has been held in South America since 2009. The gruelling multi-stage rally was previously held in Africa but was relocated after terrorist threats in Mauritania in 2008.

Dakar director David Castera described the relocation to Saudi Arabia as "a voyage into the unknown."

"By going to Saudi Arabia, it is of course that aspect that fascinates me," Castera said.

"I'm convinced that such a feeling will be shared by all the riders, drivers and copilots. As the director of the event, it's a massive challenge to be faced with a blank page with limitless possibilities."

Castera said Saudi Arabia offered up "a monumental geography, made for the most audacious itineraries".

"We are spoilt for choice. Sports, navigation, a will to surpass oneself: all these aspects will naturally be glorified on this territory made for rally-raids."

Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, Chairman of the Saudi General Sports Authority, said: “The vision and guidance of our leaders have made our dreams and ambitions limitless and have set the sports scene in the Kingdom on a remarkable success route. Today we are thrilled to announce that Rally Dakar, an event with a huge global appeal is coming to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East for the first time.

“Our country is extremely passionate about sport and our strategic goal is to feed that appetite as we move further towards achieving Vision 2030, of which sport is a basic pillar.

“In hosting Dakar Rally we aim to produce an unbelievable and unforgettable experience for drivers as they discover the beauty of Saudi nature and a unique spectacle for motorsport fans not only in Saudi Arabia but also in the region and around the world.”

Chairman of the Saudi Arabian motor federation Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Abdullah Al-Faisal added: “I have always wanted to participate in Dakar Rally. While I wasn’t fortunate to achieve that ambition, I’m now part of achieving a much bigger dream for my country as Dakar comes to the Middle East region for the first time ever.

“The vision and support of Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the trust that GSA president Prince Turki Al-Faisal had put in us were key to our efforts to secure the hosting rights for an event of such a global magnitude.”

On the sporting front, Saudi Arabia has already managed to bring high-profile events to the Kingdom, in a similar vein to the UAE.

Saudi Arabia has recently hosted the WWE Crown Jewel, a Formula-E race on the streets of Riyadh and January's Italian Super Cup between AC Milan and Juventus, while an exhibition match between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in December was called off because the latter was injured.

George Groves and Callum Smith battled it out for the WBA super-middleweight and World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) titles in Jeddah, while American Dustin Johnson won the European Tour's inaugural Saudi International in February.

(With Agencies)


Wimbledon will be canceled, believes Jamie Murray

Updated 31 March 2020

Wimbledon will be canceled, believes Jamie Murray

  • Tennis is at a standstill until June 7, with the entire European clay-court season already wiped out and the only Grand Slam event played on grass is expected to be officially canceled
  • Wimbledon organizers have ruled out playing the two-week tournament behind closed doors

LONDON: Cancelling Wimbledon is the only realistic option open to organizers as they grapple with the chaos caused by the coronavirus, says two-time Grand Slam men’s doubles champion Jamie Murray.
Tennis is at a standstill until June 7, with the entire European clay-court season already wiped out and the only Grand Slam event played on grass is expected to be officially canceled on Wednesday.
Wimbledon organizers have ruled out playing the two-week tournament, slated to run from June 29 to July 12, behind closed doors.
The French Open has already been postponed, shoehorned into the schedule in late September, and it will be difficult for Wimbledon to rearrange.
Murray, a Wimbledon men’s doubles finalist in 2015 and a two-time mixed doubles champion, said postponing the tournament presented a series of hurdles, including shorter evenings.
“I think for them, it’s difficult to move the tournament back because you’re running into other tournaments that are for the moment still on the schedule,” the 34-year-old Scotsman told the BBC on Tuesday.
“And also just things like daylight to host the event. Each week that passes, you get less and less light to play the tournament.
“Obviously they play until nine and 10 o’clock each night at Wimbledon.”
Murray, whose younger brother Andy is a two-time Wimbledon singles champion, is kicking his heels in the absence of tennis.
“I’m just at home, taking the necessary precautions, and trying to stay as active as I can,” he said.
“It’s different. We’re used to being on the road all the time, used to being in different cities every week, and you kind of become institutionalized to that.”