How are you preparing for the inaugural Formula E race and how excited are you to welcome fans to Diriyah?
Formula E is one of the biggest highlights on the Diriyah event calendar and as such we have been doing a lot to prepare. Our infrastructure has been strengthened, most notably improvements to our road and transportation network, allowing those traveling to the event to have a fantastic and seamless time when the season begins.
It is also the perfect opportunity to showcase Diriyah’s standing as a global gathering place, as visitors come from all corners of the globe to experience this extraordinary spectacle.
Through this evolution and thanks to the sophisticated vision of His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, we have been fortunate to forge great sporting partnerships, such as the one we have with Formula E. Welcoming modern events al Reino y to Diriyah is our greatest pleasure as it tests our readiness as a culturally connected global hub of not only sports, but also entertainment, culture, heritage and education.
The spectacle and electricity of the Formula E racecourse against the historic backdrop of Diriyah is an apt representation of our shared vision: respectfully protecting the essence of our past but moving forward into the future. We can’t wait to welcome fans in person again this year.
This season marks the fourth year in a row that the race is in Diriyah. What news can fans and visitors expect?
Last year, during the pandemic, we were lucky enough to run our first night run with LED lights. It looked brilliant on TV and had a huge positive response from fans. This year will be the first time fans will see the night race in person at the track. I only know that it will be the most sensational experience for them.
We’re also thrilled to be introducing a new qualifying format to Diriyah for the first time this year, as well as a spectacular lineup of concerts made especially for this year, featuring the likes of Craig David, Wyclef Jean, James Blunt, Two Door Cinema. Club and The Script.
This is Diriyah’s fourth time hosting the E-Prix in four years, and the now internationally renowned street racing track around our UNESCO World Heritage Site At-Turaif will come to life under the spotlight as Saudi Arabia is leading the way in adding even more excitement to what is one of the fastest growing sports in the world.
The inaugural Diriyah E-Prix in 2018 was the Kingdom’s first major international event; in 2019 it became the first double race in the Middle East and in 2021 it was the first night race for the all-electric ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.
A big thank you and commendation to Prince Abdul Aziz, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Sport, and His Royal Highness Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, President of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, for their excellent leadership, as well as well as for the entire team of the Ministry of Sports that is helping to offer such a unique and exciting show for the community.
What makes the Diriyah Gate project unique and what are your plans for the next 10 years?
Our mission at Diriyah Gate Development Authority is to transform one of the most important historical sites in Saudi Arabia into a global hub for culture, heritage and tourism. Diriyah Gate will be an 11 square kilometer development that protects and celebrates Diriyah’s uniquely distinctive character. It’s going to be a mixed-use space with culture firmly at its heart. There will be a tangible connection to history in its execution, with everything built in the traditional Najdi style, but working hand in hand with innovation and the future.
There is immense pride in Diriyah among Saudis, particularly as the birthplace of the Saudi state. When I bring people to Diriyah, whether they are global brands or regional players, they fall in love with it. The uniqueness of any project starts with the location, so what we are trying to do is select an experience that provides an authentic connection with visitors to Diriyah as a place. One of the ways we are doing this is by restoring our UNESCO World Heritage site at At-Turaif, which is set to open later this year. There aren’t many new developments in the world that can boast that kind of centerpiece.
We are also looking forward to opening our latest fine dining room at Bujairi Terrace in the first quarter of this year. The district overlooks At-Turaif and will soon be home to some of the world’s leading food and beverage brands, as well as local Saudi cuisine, together providing a world-class culinary offering.
As the Kingdom prepares to open its doors to international travellers, where does Diriyah Gate fit into the national tourism strategy?
As one of the largest tourism-oriented gigaprojects, we are a critical component of the success of the national tourism strategy. Our project is huge in scale, we will create 55,000 jobs and aim to attract 27 million visitors a year. As one of the first mega-projects scheduled to open, it truly is the catalyst for Vision 2030, and is central to Vision’s successful commitment to increase tourism’s contribution to the Kingdom’s GDP from 3 per cent to 10 per cent by the end of the decade.
With the number of large-scale sporting events now taking place in Diriyah, can we expect other major events to be held in Diriyah in the near future?
Along with organizing annual events brought to us by our partners in the Ministry of Sport, such as “Sports for All”, we will also prepare a program of our own DGDA sporting and lifestyle events in line with what we have delivered before. including the Diriyah Equestrian Festival, the Diriyah Tennis Cup and the 2019 “Clash on the Dunes” boxing match between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua.
In the near future, we look forward to hosting multiple annual events covering a wide variety of spectator sports, with world-class sporting facilities, including world-class golf courses, equestrian and polo facilities for local and international events and competitions; private and community sports and fitness facilities; and on top of that, the DGDA is working on identifying more places that promote a healthier and more active lifestyle throughout the project, with more to be announced in due course.
How does Formula E’s sustainability vision align with the DGDA?
Formula E aims to accelerate the shift to an electric future, as well as raise awareness and inspire change in sustainable practices, helping to reduce global carbon emissions and urban air pollution. At the DGDA we share this vision and are implementing measures to ensure that development meets the highest environmental and sustainability standards.
We want to create a place where heritage and history are respected, protected and seamlessly intertwined with sustainability and environmental considerations to create a world-class global cultural and lifestyle hub. This is an exciting challenge and one that we at the DGDA are eager to meet.
Our environmental and sustainability initiatives ensure environmental compliance by incorporating international best practices, innovative technologies, and sustainability certification goals into all of our projects.
Drawing on the rich past of the Kingdom, the buildings in Diriyah will reflect Najdi architecture from 300 years ago, recently adapted for 21st century life. Our handcrafted adobe walls, locally sourced materials, palm groves and farms embody a contextualized approach to social and environmental sustainability, resonating with site history and responding to local climatic conditions.
The use of locally sourced materials also contributes to the lifetime carbon reduction associated with development, reducing the transportation miles associated with the acquisition and installation of materials, while promoting support for the local economy.
The prospect of lighting the night sustainably was a challenge that fueled great creativity and innovation amongst our teams, and it is inspiring to see sustainable, more energy efficient and renewable solutions being employed at this year’s Formula E event. This year’s spectacular double header will take place under the brilliance of lighting with energy-efficient LED technology that uses up to 50 percent less energy than non-LED lighting. This is a vital aspect for Formula E as it has focused on reducing carbon emissions from its inception and is the first sport to be net zero carbon since its launch eight years ago.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism