Formula E legacy reaches beyond the track into the community

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Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki AlFaisal, Vice-Chair of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority. — Courtesy: The General Sports Authority media office



Riyadh — As the 2018 ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E-Prix gets underway at the stunning UNESCO World Heritage site of Ad Diriyah, Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki AlFaisal, Vice-Chair of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority, speaks about the biggest festival of Formula E racing action, culture, international music acts and entertainment the Kingdom has ever seen.

Why Formula E, and why now for Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia is racing into the future with Formula E as we open the Kingdom to the world in a transformation that is being supercharged by the Vision 2030 plan, driven forward by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman.

Our ambitious new future is one built on social, economic and technological development and Formula E comes to Saudi at a pivotal time as progress plans are being implemented. The transformation includes a sustainable sports industry, one economic pillar which holds the keys to unlocking the country’s vast potential.

The Kingdom is innovating too, opening up new sectors for development from tourism to technology while sport and entertainment lie at the heart of the transformation. So, it’s very fitting as Formula E spans all these. That’s why we have a long-term partnership.

How important an event is this for the Kingdom?

Formula E for Saudi Arabia is more than an exciting race, it is bigger than a single sporting event, it’s legacy reaches beyond the track into the community. This will be a festival that will unite and excite, both through the sporting action and the incredible line-up of culture and arts, entertainment and some of the world’s biggest names in music, David Guetta, OneRepublic, The Black Eyed Peas, Enrique Iglesias, Amr Diab and Jason Derulo. We want to bring fans and families from around the world together here in Ad Diriyah.

Even this venue has its own important story to tell, a place steeped in history that it makes this one of the most unique motorsport events ever staged. Ad Diriyah is a UNESCO heritage site, it’s a hidden jewel we are proud to show to the world. And fittingly, Formula E and our 10-year partnership, is a catalyst for conservation for us and for this beautiful place, once the home Saudi kings it runs deep in the country’s roots.

For us, it is a celebration of our past, a recognition of our present and a signpost to our future under Vision 2030. It is the start of a legacy which will excite, educate and inspire the community. Creating a better future for all, promoting safer driving on the roads and an inclusive future in which all have access.

This will be the first time Saudi Arabia has invited international fans to travel to the Kingdom, tell us more about that?

The Ad Diriyah E Prix will see fans from around the globe able to come to Saudi Arabia without restriction to watch this epic sporting and entertainment spectacle, with action on the track and global superstars performing on stage, through our new event visa platform called Sharek, with that your ticket is your visa.

It is a truly game-changing moment for Saudi Arabia and it makes this welcome one of the warmest I have ever given.

To date, hundreds of international tourists have purchased their ticket at http://fiaformulae.com/Ad-Diriyah and secured their visa. We have travellers coming from 70 countries worldwide. That global mix of race fans and adventurous tourists hail from Europe, Central and South America, Africa, the Caribbean and Asia, including China, Japan and Singapore.

So far, the USA holds the top spot for the largest number of visa holders, followed by the United Kingdom, Russia and Germany.

Will this put Saudi Arabia on the global sporting map?

Saudi is now open to the world (especially through our new visa platform) and open for business. We recognize the power of sport more than ever and the potential for the nation to play an even bigger part on the world stage.

Formula E joins sporting powerhouses such as WWE, ATP Tennis and European Tour Golf who have forged long-term partnerships with the KSA as we seek to achieve our goals under Vision 2030.

So, Saudi Arabia is very much making its presence known on the sporting map, and this is just the latest in a series of game-changing you can expect to see – live as a fan – inside the Kingdom.

This is the first time Formula E has been staged in the Middle East, but that’s not the only debut happening is it?

Formula E is a race of firsts, both for us and for the motorsport. It will be the first time the championship has been staged in the Middle East, the first time the teams compete in the Gen 2 car, the first-time women drive competitively in the Kingdom and the first-time fans from around the world can visit Saudi.

With all these firsts come opportunities, a new car, new experiences and new ways for Saudi and motorsport to work together.

Formula E is a commitment to the future with sustainable technology at the heart of the event, reaching into the community and inspiring future technicians and engineers to pursue research and renewable energy. It sums up our new direction under Vision 2030.

This is the start of a long partnership with Formula E, what do you see on the horizon?

The 2018 ‘Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix’ is the first in a 10-year partnership between ABB FIA Formula E Championship, the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia (GSA) and the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF).

It is the freshness of Formula E, the openness and the will to write new chapters in the history of motorsport worldwide that made it so attractive to us. This is a friendship, a long-term partnership that will see growth in both Saudi Arabia and within the sport. As it evolves so will we and vice versa.

This event and all that surrounds it, from welcoming world-class teams to the global TV coverage, represents a watershed moment that is expected to break viewership records for the sport.

Formula E is used to breaking new ground in motorsports, taking racing where it’s never been before, New York, Hong Kong, Rome. Now the utterly unique UNESCO World Heritage site of Ad Diriyah takes that to a new level.

Is there a passion for racing in Saudi Arabia?

The passion for motorsport in the Kingdom runs deep, we love cars and now happily we can all love driving. I speak as one who was so swept up by that love, I became a professional racing driver and pursued my dreams on the track. That strong connection to the sport lives in the hearts of many fans in Saudi Arabia, young and old, male and female.

To be hosting not just a world-class racing event, not just a season opener but also a significant evolution for Formula E here in Saudi on home soil is a dream come true for many. This is for the fans and the families. This is for those who, as I did, have a vision of their future in racing, whether that be behind the wheel or behind the scenes.

We know that sport is for all, and that is very much enshrined in Vision 2030. For the General Sports Authority this is in our very DNA, and we cannot wait for the entire community to share in this moment, to enjoy it, to be thrilled by it, and be bonded in their excitement and enthusiasm.


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