Why Saudi Arabia invests so heavily in motorsport

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Your efforts will be projected onto the world stage in December when the F1 season reaches an exciting climax …

Why Saudi Arabia invests so heavily in motorsport-arabia

There is probably no country in the world that is currently more into motorsport invested as Saudi Arabia. Your efforts will be projected onto the world stage in December when the F1 season reaches an exciting climax. And one of the venues is a new street circuit in Jeddah.

Formula 1 has signed a long-term contract with Saudi Arabia to host the races. The Grand Prix will be held on a new, purpose-built race track in Qiddiya. The Dakar Rally, Formula E and Extreme E will also take place there.

Why Saudi Arabia invests so heavily in motorsport-saudi Why Saudi Arabia invests so heavily in motorsport-motorsport

Why is this happening? For this issue of #ThinkingForward, we spoke to the Saudi Minister of Sports, Prince Abdulaziz, to find out more about the country’s ambitions for motorsport and how it intends to implement Formula 1’s #WeRaceAsOne message in relation to social justice.

"It’s not just about motorsport, but maybe motorsport has taken a big part of the limelight. We are really investing in a lot of sports within the kingdom," he says. "The government has understood that sport plays a very important role in the future of young people. 70 percent of the population are under 40 years of age. So we have to get them to take action. We have to get them more enthusiastic about sport and make sure we’re getting it right. In 2017 we had 32 (sports) associations. Today we have 92 and that shows that there is a lot of investment going on in the kingdom. "

Why Saudi Arabia invests so heavily in motorsport-saudi

The Saudi model, which is part of Vision 2030 for the country, is to invest in sport and raise the level of competition to an international one so that Saudi athletes can learn from international athletes while improving their level. Motorsport provided an early example of this with the FIA ​​Baja Cross Country World Cup, in which the country won multiple drivers’ titles. Including in the T3 category, which was won last year by a Saudi driver Dania Akeel. She will take part in the Dakar Rally in 2022.

"Four years ago women (in Saudi Arabia) were not allowed to drive. This shows that development is about much more than just sport," says Prince Abdulaziz. "It’s about quality of life. It’s about giving young people a chance. It’s about being present on the international stage."

However, as the country becomes more prominent on the world stage, it will also be scrutinized and that will come into focus in the coming weeks when the F1 community arrives in Saudi Arabia with their message #WeRaceAsOne "for social justice. How will they take it up?

"Everyone is welcome in this country. We have our culture and our customs that every other country has, and we respect them everywhere," says Prince Abdulaziz. "And that’s it. We definitely look forward to hosting many more events in the future.

And we would like to invite all people from all over the world to visit Saudi Arabia and see what it is. Everyone is welcome. We respect everyone and we have to put on a show that is really for everyone. And we have to make sure we get that … hopefully we can get everyone who comes and goes to this race to experience something different from anywhere else. "

Prince Abdulaziz notes that it was the arrival of the Formula E race in 2018 that sparked the introduction of a tourist visa previously unavailable to Saudi Arabia: "A tourist visa that was accepted all over the world , did not exist in Saudi Arabia in 2017. Formula E initiated a process. Within three months, the Ministry of Tourism adopted the system that we introduced in the sports sector, "he says.

"And today visitors from more than 50 countries have the opportunity to get a visa on arrival. In the past we couldn’t host events because the country wasn’t open to it."

Why Saudi Arabia invests so heavily in motorsport-motorsport

As for Formula 1, the latest Global F1 Fan Survey showed that audiences are getting younger and more feminine and that there is a lot of overlap with gamers in the under-24 age group.

"I think it is the right time for us to get in here. And I really believe that Formula 1 with the new management has changed its philosophy of what Formula 1 is and is more concerned with the fans," says the prince.

"We see them very actively on social media, we see the Netflix series. That got a lot of people’s attention to Formula 1. People who aren’t really into racing watched them. And now they’re Formula -1 fans. And I think that this approach really makes the difference for Formula 1: the youngsters to bring the next generation on board so that they can be part of the future of Formula 1. It’s amazing for us, because how As I mentioned earlier, 70 percent of the population is under 40 years old. And they are very tech-savvy. "

When it comes to gaming and eSports, Abdulaziz sees this as a great opportunity for the kingdom due to the demographic composition of the population and the passion for sports.

"The nice thing about gaming is that you can do it anywhere, anytime. We sponsored the virtual Le Mans race that was held during the lockdown. It’s so important that we have our own federation that controls gambling in the kingdom I think this is the future. And I think we should give it as much importance as any other sport. It is very important for the youth and for the future. And we should be part of that development. "

More about Formula 1: Why Saudi Arabia invests so heavily in motorsport-invests F1 and Motorsport Network: The results of the global fan survey

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