Exciting opportunity for the world to see the real Saudi Arabia: sports chief

David Castera, director of the Dakar Rally, during a news conference to unveil the 2020 Dakar Rally which is taking place for the first time in Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
Updated 24 November 2019

Exciting opportunity for the world to see the real Saudi Arabia: sports chief

  • A combination of sandy stretches and gravel await the event’s thrill-seeking competitors

RIYADH: Organizers of the Dakar Rally Saudi Arabia 2020 have officially confirmed route details of the world’s most challenging rally race, which comes to Asia for the first time from Jan. 5 to 17 next year. 

Welcoming it as “an event of immense global appeal” that shows the Kingdom’s passion and obsession of motorsport, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Sport Authority (GSA),  said: “We have the privilege of launching chapter 3 of the Dakar story, introducing the race to Asia for the first time, where no country better describes the diversity of the desert terrains this continent has to offer than Saudi Arabia.

 “Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 will go through various terrain and scenery, and will be an exciting opportunity for the world to see the real Saudi Arabia, to meet its generous people and to experience first-hand how we are driven by ambition, professionalism and the steadfast desire to succeed at the highest levels,” he added.

 Addressing more than 200 media outlets and broadcasters at a special press conference on Wednesday at the Arab World Institute in Paris, Prince Khalid bin Sultan Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Arabian Federation of Motor and Motorcycle Sports, and the rally’s director, David Castera, confirmed details of the 12 Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 stages.

 “Saudi Arabia and the Dakar Rally come together to write a new chapter of achievements in the world of motorsports, a chapter headlined by the challenge of discovering a new land and written by the warm hospitality the Kingdom and its people have to offer,” Prince Khalid said.

 “Through this inaugural rally, the world will see our breath-taking desert, our vast land, and will also meet its generous people.

 “We want the world to see our fascinating desert waiting for the adventurous stories to be told. We want the world to see, first-hand, the warm and generous hospitality the people of Saudi Arabia have to offer. We are eager to welcome the world to our country, and to witness our vision, capability and professionalism in hosting the biggest sporting events at the highest levels,” he added.

 Extending over 7,500 kilometers of the Kingdom’s vast and unexplored desert, Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 gets under way in Jeddah before drivers and crews navigate their way through the fast and winding dunes and stones for 752 kilometers.

 The intimidating challenge continues north along the coast for nearly 900 kilometers through the Red Sea Project, until it reaches the futuristic megacity of Neom, where the marvelous journey reaches its highest point at an altitude of 1,400 meters amid a series of canyons and mountains.

 A combination of sandy stretches and gravel await Dakar’s thrill-seeking competitors as they cruise next through 676 kilometers of the formidable trip from Neom to Al-Ula in Dakar’s fourth stage before the sandy hills of Ha’il put the navigation skills of competitors to the test while descending south onto Riyadh.

A rest day in the capital will be followed by Dakar Saudi Arabia’s next stage of 741 kilometers as the route takes a turn to the west in the center of the Kingdom’s enormous desert before looping back toward Haradh in the eastern governorate of Al-Ahsa, marking the entrance to the Empty Quarter and building up to the grand finale in Qiddiya, a future entertainment, sports and cultural destination, where the winner will be crowned.

Highlighting the magnitude of competing in the Dakar Rally and finishing the unnerving challenge, Castera said: “Crossing the Dakar finish line is nothing short of living the dream. You can do it on your first go, and sometimes your hopes may be dashed, but ultimately perseverance and clever strategy are most often rewarded. The happiness of these drivers and co-drivers also translates to the satisfaction of the organizers.

“In Africa, then in South America and now in Saudi Arabia for the launch of this new chapter, this extraordinary rally has always strived to accompany its competitors in the ultimate quest,”
he added.

Drivers from more than 62 different countries have registered to experience the unchartered and spectacular terrain of Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020, where they will drive specially modified vehicles, trucks, quads, SxS, and motorbikes, designed to handle 12 stages of challenging terrain.

 


Saudi Arabia to stage first professional ladies golf tournament

Updated 12 December 2019

Saudi Arabia to stage first professional ladies golf tournament

  • Royal Greens Golf & Country Club will host a Ladies European Tour event in March

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia continued its groundbreaking sporting development with Thursday’s announcement that a Ladies European Tour (LET) event will take place at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City from March 19 to 22.

The 72-hole stroke play tournament will be the first time that professional female golfers have played in the Kingdom and will  have a $1 million prize fund for which 108 golfers are expected to compete. It will be broadcast domestically and to more than 340 million homes across more than 55 countries worldwide, according to a press release from Golf Saudi.

Royal Greens Golf & Country Club is also the host of the men's European Tour’s Saudi International. Dustin Johnson won the first staging of the competition this year and will return in January to defend his title against a world-class field including Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau and Henrik Stenson.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, said in the press release announcing the ladies competition: “We are delighted to be creating history by hosting the inaugural ladies professional tournament in March. I hope the tournament will inspire many women to take up the great game of golf and awaken their interest in this wonderful sport. We warmly welcome all the players to the Kingdom and wish everyone a rewarding experience in our magical country.”

“I am incredibly excited by this announcement and it is an honor for the Tour to be part of history in bringing the first-ever professional women’s golf event to Saudi Arabia,” said LET CEO Alexandra Armas in the press release. “(It) is an exciting prospect for everyone at LET and having seen the quality of the event staging for the Saudi International, I am sure this will be a fantastic experience for our players.”

Alongside the announcement of the tournament, Golf Saudi also revealed several new ambassadors from the LET who will help to promote golf in the Kingdom. The UK’s Carly Booth, Amy Boulden and Rachel Drummond, and Swedish pair Camilla Lennarth and Isabella Deilert will each wear the Golf Saudi logo as ambassadors of the program.

Looking ahead to the inaugural LET event, three-time Tour winner Booth said: “I’m looking forward to being part of history with the other ladies on the tour and of course to competing over the Royal Greens course. I have visited Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions and been lucky enough to spend some time teaching local women and girls how to play; they have been so enthusiastic and I am sure that seeing professional golfers compete in their country will inspire them to take up the game and strive for their dreams.”