New route, more technically challenging Dakar Rally promised in Saudi Arabia next year

The Dakar Rally will be returning to Saudi Arabia for a second year running, it was announced through a virtual press conference on Wednesday. (SPA/File Photo)
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Updated 12 June 2020

New route, more technically challenging Dakar Rally promised in Saudi Arabia next year

  • The organizers of the 2021 Dakar-Saudi race have promised a route that is entirely new

DUBAI: The Dakar Rally will be returning to Saudi Arabia for a second year running, it was announced through a virtual press conference on Wednesday. 

The organizers of the 2021 Dakar-Saudi race have promised a route that is entirely new, more technical and, among the dunes that will surround it from start to finish, will include stages that will test the driver’s speed and endurance.

“It is with tremendous pride that we welcome the Dakar Rally back to the kingdom in 2021,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal Al-Saud, Minister of Sports. “It will once again be our honor to extend our renowned hospitality two all competitors, crew, fans and media taking part, as well as our now close friends and partners at the Amaury Sports Organisation.”

Last year, the Dakar Rally took place in Saudi Arabia for the first time, and indeed it was a landmark event for motor-racing in the continent.

“Hosting Dakar rally across our breathtaking natural landscape broke new ground for both Saudi Arabia as a nation and Dakar too, with it being the first time in the rally’s history to have the engines roar in Asia,” Prince Abdul Aziz said. “We always believed we had the key components needed too deliver Dakar, and we are thrilled with how amazing the rally was.

“Now as we look forward to achieving the grand ambition of the Vision 2030, making tomorrow even more beautiful is what drives us individually and as a nation,” he added. “Dakar Saudi is visionary project that comes with great challenges and opportunities. For us, the values of Dakar and the wider goals and ambitions of the Amaury Sports Organisation make them a natural partner, for both the Ministry of Sport and the Saudi Arabian Motorsports Federation, and we are delighted to be working with them again.”

Prince Abdul Aziz was keen to reiterate the importance of having such an event take place in the Kingdom.

“Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 was the greatest race our part of the world has ever seen,” he said. “It is aligned in every with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, to redefine human ambition and adventure. We welcome the world and invite them to embark with us on an adventure like never before. To Saudi Arabia and the Ministry of Sport, such a challenge, like everything, will never be considered impossible. Welcome to Saudi Arabia.”

David Castera, the director of the Dakar Rally opened the conference to the backdrop of the Pyrenees mountains, where he has been finalising every aspect of the 2021 race.

“I’ve been working in it ever with my team through video conferences of course,” he said. “Like most of you, we had to adapt and work differently. Dakar is being well prepared, very well prepared. We’re on time, the course is done. Many things have advanced, and the Saudis working along us, and we’ll be ready for the month of January.”

Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Faisal, Chairman of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation expressed his pride to be hosting the race in Saudi Arabia again.

“Dakar 2020 was huge success for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Dakar,” he said. “Dakar 2020 witnessed an increase in participants from all around the world. It was a tough race, it was a thrilling 13 days. I saw personally the excitement and the satisfaction on the faces of all the drivers and the teams, and this was a big relief to us in Saudi Arabia.”

He also had a message for the drivers who will take part in 2021.

“It’s new race, it’s a new route…we’re going to take you to new parts of Saudi Arabia for you to discover, and to prove you are up to the challenge and you can compete at a very high and international level.”

Prince Khalid also highlighted the support of the government of Saudi Arabia in making Dakar 2020 such a success. 

That was the core of our achievement of 2020, and we are really looking forward to welcome you all again in Saudi Arabia and to witness a new challenge  and hopefully, inshallah, you will enjoy Dakar 2021as you enjoyed it (last year) and I promise you it will be more thrilling and exciting for you.”


Lin Dan retirement ends era of ‘Chinese sports superstar’

Updated 08 July 2020

Lin Dan retirement ends era of ‘Chinese sports superstar’

  • The era of the superstar that once belonged to Chinese sports has faded

SHANGHAI: The retirement of two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan signals the end of a golden era of Chinese sporting superstars, state media said on Tuesday.

Arguably the greatest badminton player of all time, the 36-year-old said on Saturday that he was bringing the curtain down on a career that also brought five world titles.

NBA All-Star Yao Ming, Olympic gold-medal hurdler Liu Xiang and two-time tennis Grand Slam champion Li Na have all retired in the last decade.

“With the ‘Super Dan’ curtain call, people cannot help but sigh,” Xinhua news agency said.

“The era of the superstar that once belonged to Chinese sports has faded.

“When will the next Lin Dan appear? Or when will the next Yao Ming, Liu Xiang and Li Na appear?

“Where is the next Chinese sports superstar who will create a collective memory for us?”

The quartet were not just world leaders in their sport and popular in China, but also had “considerable influence in the international arena and became a window for the world to understand China,” Xinhua said.

Of prominent Chinese athletes left, women’s volleyball player Zhu Ting has the potential to rise to superstar level, Xinhua said, while disgraced swimmer Sun Yang “enjoys high popularity (in China), but unfortunately he is banned.” 

The 28-year-old is appealing against an 8-year ban for refusing to give a doping sample. The three-time Olympic freestyle champion’s career will effectively be over if he loses his appeal at the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

China has world champions in other sports, and finished third behind the US and Britain in the medal table at the Rio 2016 Olympics, but they are not generally well-known even inside the country, Xinhua said.

Table tennis player Zhang Jike, another three-time Olympic gold medalist, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Lin, said the Oriental Sports Daily.

But at 32 his best days are behind him and as far back as 2016 he signaled his intention to retire, before having a change of heart.

“When will the next Lin Dan and China’s next sports superstar appear again?” asked the newspaper.

“This question may not be answered in a short space of time.”