Events like Formula E can turn Saudi Arabia into global sporting hub: DGDA CEO Jerry Inzerillo

Jerry Inzerillo, Diriyah Gate Development Authority CEO, said he hopes to continue attracting world class sporting events such as Formula E to Saudi Arabia. (Supplied/DGDA)
Updated 22 November 2019

Events like Formula E can turn Saudi Arabia into global sporting hub: DGDA CEO Jerry Inzerillo

  • Plans for Diriyah as tourist destination are closely aligned with Saudi leadership’s Vision 2030
  • This year’s edition of Diriyah Season — of which Formula E forms a part — sees the venue hosting four major international sporting events

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, with the help of locations like Diriyah, can become a global sporting hub in the future, according to the CEO of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA).
Speaking ahead of the new season of Formula E in Diriyah on Nov. 22-23 — the motor racing series featuring battery powered cars — Jerry Inzerillo said he hopes to continue attracting world class sporting events to Saudi Arabia.
“If the popularity of ticket sales — such as those for ‘Clash on the Dunes’ on December 7 — are anything to go by, we sold all 15,000 tickets in 36 hours, we will be successful in our mission,” he said.
“Diriyah is a very special place, and an emotional one. The spectacular setting, with the backdrop of UNESCO Heritage Site At Turaif, and Salwa Palace give all events a very unique quality and this definitely sets us apart from more modern stadiums and urban venues,” he added.
Inzerillo said the plans for Diriyah as a tourist destination are closely aligned with the Saudi leadership’s Vision 2030 for tourism in the Kingdom.
“The E-visa has opened up the Kingdom to many new visitors, and we have been overwhelmed by the number of applications over the past month.
“We are aiming to attract 27 million visitors per year by 2030 – 20 million from Saudi Arabia and the rest from overseas.
“With a deep-rooted and rich history, cultural elements will form the glue of Diriyah. We will open eight new museums, which will sit alongside vibrant residential areas, world-class hotels and a huge number of entertainment and sports projects including an Aman resort and a Greg Norman championship golf course. In total, we are aiming for 90+ historical activities and 86 prioritized assets,” he said.
This year’s edition of Diriyah Season — of which Formula E forms a part — sees the venue hosting four major international sporting events, something that has been a challenging, but exciting, project for Inzerillo.
“We are including a strong element of entertainment in all that we do. I am very grateful to my talented team, who are working around the clock to ensure that all our planned events – from the Formula E, the heavyweight boxing championship and the five weeks of Diriyah Season — are delivered without a glitch,” he said.
The DGDA CEO is also envisaging this year’s Formula E weekend will surpass the success of last year’s event.
“We welcomed 40,000 people to Formula E last year, and this year will far exceed that number. We learned from last year and have successfully hosted many major events since then, so are confident we are race ready.
“As with everything we do, we are aiming for bigger and better this year. Watch this space,” he said.
Inzerillo believes the hosting of high profile events such as Formula E can spread a new image of the Kingdom to the world.
“I hope that these events will show the world that Saudi Arabia has taken massive and quick strides in opening up its heritage and its stories to the world.
“It is wonderful to me to be able to start to present a new story for Saudi, to continue to build on those that they have been told for years. Hosting all of these great sporting events also plays to the Vision 2030 — and what better place to have them all than in the birthplace of the Kingdom,” he said.
While his focus has partly been on attracting regional and global visitors to the Kingdom for events like Formula E, Inzerillo’s plans also include enticing Saudi citizens as well.
“Diriyah is a place for the Saudi people, created by Saudi hands, by bringing awareness and exposure to the stories around Diriyah, we are reconnecting Saudis to their culture and heritage, to find, or to reacquaint themselves with their identity.
“We are also proud to be able to tell a new story, one of openness, vibrancy and generosity. And of course, the weekend will be fun, memorable and filled with world-class entertainment.”

Diriyah Tennis Cup serves up top-class fare

Updated 13 December 2019

Diriyah Tennis Cup serves up top-class fare

  • Day one of the three-day tournament saw Fognini, Monfils, Medvedev and Goffin through to the semi-finals

RIYADH: A new chapter was written today in Saudi Arabia’s sporting history as the first international tennis matches took place as part of the epic month of Diriyah Season.

The Diriyah Tennis Cup presented by Saudi Aramco will certainly go down in history as eight of the world’s best tennis stars met in the Diriyah Arena for the first-ever international tournament played in the Kingdom. 

The event also goes down in tennis history as not only the first in Saudi Arabia, but also one of the first to use Hawk-Eye Live technology. Replacing the need for line judges and providing more accuracy, Hawk-Eye Live sends visual and audio cues to the chair umpire and off-court monitors within a tenth of a second of a ball bouncing, to show faults and out of bounds shots without relying on the naked eye.

The first day as part of a three-day tournament saw all eight players in action in the opening matches. First up on court was Italian and world number 12 Fabio Fognini taking on American John Isner world number 19 and holder of the third fastest serve of all time in Men’s Tennis. Although both players will be written into the Kingdom’s history books, it was Fognini who was the record breaker as he delivered the first international serve and match win ever recorded, 7-6 6-4. 

Speaking after his win, Fabio Fognini said: “I won the first game of the competition, it’s nice. It’s something I will remember for sure and the people will remember as it is the first year we play here. I know they want to do something more [grassroots tennis], especially to improve tennis in this country so I’m happy.”

Commenting after the historic match, John Isner also added: “Very unique to be here and be part of this. I never thought I’d be here playing in Saudi Arabia. Very grateful and happy to be here. The ball kids did great tonight, fantastic job.”

Second up on the Diriyah Arena court was Swiss Stan Wawrinka, the world’s number 16, against Frenchman Gael Monfils the world’s number 10. Monfils took the win in straight sets 6-3 6-3. Monfils rallied the crowd by encouraging them to cheer and danced after some of his winning shots.

“So far it’s great. The offering they have here for us to perform is incredible. The court is one of the best…it’s quite nice. The people are very nice. I feel very good.” said Monfils.

Daniil Medvedev of Russia and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany met in the third match of the evening. Medvedev made light work of Struff to take the win 6-3 6-1 and advance to the semi-finals.

Speaking after his win, Medvedev commented: “Was a great match. It’s never easy like this, after the end of the season, holidays and in the middle of pre-season to know how you are playing at this moment – are you strong or not? Today was a great match, beating Jan so easy is a great achievement because he’s a great player so I am really happy. The atmosphere was also really good and warm.”

In the final match of the night, Belgian’s David Goffin rallied with Lucas Pouille of France. Goffin took the final place in tomorrow night’s semi-finals beating Pouille 6-2 6-4.

After the match, Goffin commented: “Super organisation – the stadium is very nice. First time for me playing in Saudi, it’s a great atmosphere. I think for the people tonight it was something to see, professional tennis matches here. I think it was great for us and them as well. It’s a nice court and stadium – it could be a very nice center court in a big tournament.”

Today’s results will see Fognini of Italy meet Monfils of France in semi-final 1 and Medvedev of Russia will take on Goffin of Belgium on Friday 13th December. The remaining four players will still continue to play as part of the Consolation Bracket. The Diriyah Tennis Cup will conclude with the final on Saturday 14th December.