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.”


No fans, no problem as Serena wins on return

Updated 12 August 2020

No fans, no problem as Serena wins on return

  • The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion looked to be flirting with an early exit in the second set

LOS ANGELES: Serena Williams shrugged off the absence of fans to make a winning return from her six-month coronavirus layoff on Tuesday, defeating lowly ranked Bernarda Pera in three sets at the WTA Top Seed Open tournament in Kentucky.

Williams, who before Tuesday had not played a competitive game since a Fed Cup appearance in February, came from behind to defeat American world No. 60 Pera 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in two hours and 15 minutes at the Top Seed Tennis Club in Lexington.

The former world No. 1’s first round victory played out to an empty arena. This week’s tournament — the first WTA event in the US since the COVID-19 pandemic — is taking place without spectators.

Williams, 38, later revealed that the sedate surroundings had suited her game.

“It was a really calm atmosphere, it was really chill,” Williams said.

“I can’t say I disliked it. I didn’t mind it at all. I’ve been through so many things in my career and this was totally different. I think I won today because I was calm for once in my career.

“Kind of reminds me of junior days. Something nostalgic about that. I kind of enjoyed it.”

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion looked to be flirting with an early exit in the second set, but recovered from 0-40 down at 4-4 before holding and eventually winning the set.

“I just knew I could do better,” Williams said. “It was an interesting game. I just had to get used to her game a little bit. She played really well.”

Williams will now play either sister Venus or Victoria Azarenka in the second round.

Pera had seized an early advantage in the first set, breaking Williams to take a 3-2 lead before holding for the remainder of the set to win 6-4.

Williams was soon in trouble on her service game in the second set, falling 0-40 in the opening game before battling back to hold.

Williams moved into a 3-1 lead with a break of Pera’s serve in the fourth game, but her Croatia-born opponent hit back immediately with a break of her own before holding to level at 3-3.

With the next two games going to serve, Williams looked to be in trouble after falling 0-40 down in the ninth game. But she dug deep to hold for a 5-4 lead and then broke for the set when Pera sent a forehand return wide.

The momentum spilled into the deciding set, and another misdirected forehand from Pera handed Williams a break to move into a 3-1 lead.

Another break took her into a 5-1 lead and she closed out the win by holding to love, wrapping up victory with a cross-court forehand that left Pera stranded.

This week’s WTA tournament is the first to be staged in the United States since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the tennis season earlier this year.