Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia ‘opens new roads to the Kingdom’: GSA chairman

GSA chairman Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal said the staging of the rally in Saudi Arabia is the result of “the trust, determination and ambition” shown by the Kingdom’s leadership. (Supplied)
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Updated 17 December 2019

Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia ‘opens new roads to the Kingdom’: GSA chairman

  • The rally will be held from Jan. 5-17, 2020
  • GSA chairman: Result of “trust, determination and ambition” shown by the Kingdom’s leadership

RIYADH: The launch of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia “will bring the world closer than ever to the hospitable people of the Kingdom,” Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority, said.

Speaking at a press conference in Qiddiya on Tuesday, Prince Abdul Aziz said the staging of the rally in Saudi Arabia is the result of “the trust, determination and ambition” shown by the Kingdom’s leadership.

The rally, which will be held from Jan. 5-17, 2020, “will drive more achievements that will make the country proud and confident on its path toward achieving Vision 2030,” he said.

“With the launch of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, the world will get to know the picturesque nature of our country and its magnificent desert. The world will come closer than ever to the hospitable people of the Kingdom,” Prince Abdul Aziz added.

“This is a new beginning in the history of the Dakar Rally. The race that has topped the list of rallies for 40 years in Africa and South America will start a new chapter in Saudi Arabia.”

President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal, described the staging of the rally in the Kingdom as an “unforgettable adventure.”

He added: “Today, the Saudi Arabian Automobile and Motorcycle Federation is consolidating its commitment to developing motorsport, improving driving standards and conditions, and encouraging safe and responsible driving. At the same time, we wish to host the best and most challenging competitions for our young men and women in the Kingdom in order for them to show the world their capabilities and skills, whether it is driving cars and bikes, or hosting and managing international events and activities.”

The prince told reporters that the federation is supporting several Saudi drivers in the Dakar Rally by paying their participation fees.

Assembled media were shown a video that will be displayed on giant screens in international cities such as Paris, Milan and Madrid in order to introduce the world to the Kingdom’s desert attractions.

The video will also be shown at famous international sites such as Times Square in New York, Leicester Square in London and on the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It will also be featured in the Saudi capital Riyadh and the cities of Jeddah and Dammam, and will include clips explaining the history of the Kingdom.


Cold comfort as Roland Garros starts in shadow of coronavirus

Updated 27 September 2020

Cold comfort as Roland Garros starts in shadow of coronavirus

  • A resurgence of COVID-19 cases means that only 1,000 spectators will be allowed into the grounds each day

PARIS: Roland Garros gets underway in chilly, damp Paris on Sunday still in the grip of the coronavirus which organizers had hoped they would escape by unilaterally pushing back the clay court Grand Slam event by four months.
Opening day will see 2018 champion Simona Halep start her bid for a third major while 40-year-old Venus Williams kicks off her 23rd French Open.
Andy Murray takes on fellow three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in the day’s marquee tie in a rematch of their epic 2017 semifinal duel.
However, it will be an eerily unfamiliar tournament, even for defending champion Rafael Nadal, chasing a 13th Paris title, and 2016 winner and world number one Novak Djokovic, as well as Serena Williams, pursuing an elusive 24th major.
A resurgence of COVID-19 cases means that only 1,000 spectators will be allowed into the grounds each day.
In 2019, more than 500,000 people watched the two-week tournament on site.
Organizers had hoped to welcome 20,000 fans a day but in the space of just a few weeks, that figure was quickly downsized to 11,500, then 5,000 before the French government slashed it to a 1,000 maximum.
“Tens of millions of euros have gone up in smoke,” said French Tennis Federation marketing chief Stephane Morel as he mourned the loss of ticket income.
Players, meanwhile, have been confined to two tournament hotels with tight restrictions on their movements.
It’s at the hotels where they undergo Covid-19 testing, a source of controversy and recrimination in the build-up.
Last weekend, five players due to take part in men’s qualifying were stood down.
Two had tested positive while three others had been in contact with coach Petar Popovic who also tested positive.
Popovic told L’Equipe it was a “scandal” and had “(Rafael) Nadal been in our shoes, he would have had the right to a second or third test.”
On Friday, veteran Spaniard Fernando Verdasco said he was “outraged and frustrated” after being withdrawn following one failed Covid-19 test which he claimed fell between a steady stream of negative results.
Verdasco said he should have been allowed a second test.
Inside the grounds of Roland Garros, situated in the prosperous western district of Paris, there are further signs of the effect of the pandemic.
Normally bustling shops, food outlets and other commercial stalls have been shuttered.
Everyone at the tournament, including players if they are not in action or in practice, is masked. Hand sanitizers dot the site.
Instead of the early summer sun usually associated with the tournament in its traditional May-June slot, players will shiver in 16°C on Sunday with rain and high winds forecast for the first week.
That should mean overtime for the new retractable roof over the showpiece Court Philippe Chatrier.
On court Sunday, Halep, the top seed in the absence of world number one Ashleigh Barty, who opted not to defend her title on health grounds, takes on Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo, ranked at 70.
Wimbledon champion Halep is the favorite especially with US Open champion Naomi Osaka missing through injury.
Former world number one Murray tackles 2015 champion Wawrinka in his first appearance in Paris in three years.