International sports event as part of Vision 2030 launches a series of ‘firsts’ with new visa process, live music, culture and entertainment at UNESCO heritage site
The new visa will allow fans to travel to the December 15 Formula E Middle East debut in historic Ad Diriyah, near Riyadh
AD DIRIYAH, Saudi Arabia, September 25, 2018: In a first move to open its borders to international visitors, Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday the launch of a new electronic visa that will allow international motor racing fans to travel to the Kingdom to attend the inaugural year-end Saudia Ad Diriyah E Prix to be held near the capital Riyadh.
“Saudi Arabia will open up its borders to fans of live sport, music and culture for the first time with the launch of a new online visa process dedicated to welcoming international tourists. The new visa process platform known as ‘Sharek’ will be introduced for the inaugural Saudia Ad Diriyah E Prix being staged at a stunning UNESCO heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh on 15th December 2018,” the Saudi General Sports Authority said in a statement.
The historical city of Ad Diriyah, the first seat of power for Saudi Kings, will come alive by hosting the biggest festival of car racing, live music and entertainment. The first-of-its-kind event will be held over three days during which international superstars will entertain fans.
Today’s announcement at a press conference at the venue was attended by Formula E starsFelipe Massa, Susie Wolff and André Lotterer.
Sharek was launched as part of the country’s Vision 2030, strategy for the future, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Organisers expressed hope that a large number of international fans would take advantage of the facility to travel to the Kingdom to witness Formula E’s Middle East debut, as well as Gen2 cars for the start of Season V.
The Ad Diriyah E Prix will be the first-time foreign travelers can access Saudi Arabia in such a fast and uncomplicated process as it opens its doors to sports tourism.
The Kingdom’s commitment to tourism, a cornerstone of Vision 2030, and the importance of Formula E on the sporting, social and business calendar of the region, were underscored by the announcement that Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) – the Kingdom’s flag-carrier – is the new official airline of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship and the race title partner.
His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Vice-Chair of Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority, said: “This is a truly game-changing moment for Saudi Arabia and one that we can share with the world. It is very fitting that the such a futuristic and sustainable sport as Formula E is pointing to the future direction of our country. Naturally to have Saudia, our national carrier, as the new title sponsor signals our intent to reach out and invite fans to our historic and original capital.
“Saudi Arabia is home to literally millions of passionate young fans of motorsport. Many of whom simply cannot believe that Felipe Massa took the Gen2 car around the streets of the capital today and that they now have a ‘home race’ on the Formula E calendar. So already the excitement is building especially since we’re adding live music concerts to the weekend line-up.
“With the introduction with ‘Sharek’ our visa entry process for fans worldwide, we can share the event. We hope the Saudia Diriyah E Prix will see fans from around the globe come to Saudi Arabia to watch this epic sporting spectacle as now your ticket is your visa. We can promise a line-up both on the track, onstage and amongst a breathtaking historical setting that will excite fans across the world. It is the perfect combination of live sport, entertainment, technology and culture all in the one place and all at the one time.
“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, and driven forward by His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”
At the launch ceremony, Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki was joined by dignitaries from Saudia and a number of government entities, including the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation, that are working together to deliver the event. From the racing world, Formula E CEO Alejandro Agagwas joined by F1 legend turned Formula E star with the Venturi team Felipe Massa, and Susie Wolff, Venturi team principal and shareholder. Massa and Wolff have also been named as Saudia brand ambassadors.
Addressing the reporters, Massa said: “This is amazing to be together with an important company like Saudia and also for an amazing race that we are going to have here on the 15thof December. I can say that it will be an amazing race event to watch. I drove today on the race track and the corners, you have a lot of slow corners and high-speed corners, straight lines, and over takings. I am sure the race will be fun to watch but also a challenge for us but I am looking forward to it.’’
Saudi Arabia has worked with UNESCO to build the track from the historic city’s existing road network, holding true to the sustainable nature of Formula E and the intention to minimise noise pollution. The project has inspired infrastructure investment and conservation efforts around the archeological site.
Over the three-day racing event, a series of cultural and entertainment events will be held to make the race a memorable experience for fans. More details about the race will be announced in the coming weeks.
His Royal Highness Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al Faisal Al Saud, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, said: “We are not just opening up to international fans, but importantly we are opening up our nation to new and exciting sports. Giving new experiences. We hope some of the children who watch this first race will be inspired to be part of the industry over the course of the next decade. Ideally, they’ll be supporting, competing and winning on the track too. We firmly believe new opportunities will grow from the seeds planted from the historical roots of our nation in Diriyah.
“This single event has the potential to change lives and change perceptions, both of the sport and of Saudi Arabia. The seeds are already growing, the track is taking shape, all with the approval of UNESCO. It is progress and preservation in one. Today is groundbreaking in all senses.”
The event is officially sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), whose “safe driving” campaign will be adopted and promoted during the event.
Formula E joins sporting powerhouses such as WWE and European Tour Golf that have forged long-term partnerships with Saudi Arabia as it establishes itself as a destination for global sports.