Saudi Arabia launches first visitor visa for sports fans worldwide with Formula E
17 December 2018
In a new move to open its borders to international visitors, Saudi Arabia has announced 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,” said the Saudi General Sports Authority in a statement. The new visa process platform, known as “Sharek”, will be introduced for the E Prix, which will be staged at a stunning UNESCO heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh on 15th December 2018.
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.
Sharek was launched as part of the country’s Vision 2030 programme. 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 represents the first time foreign travellers will be able to access Saudi Arabia using such a fast, uncomplicated process as the country opens its doors to sports tourism.
The kingdom’s commitment to tourism, a cornerstone of Vision 2030, and the importance of Formula E to 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 bin Faisal 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 cannot believe that Felipe Massa took the Gen2 car around the streets of the capital and that they now have a “home race” on the Formula E calendar.
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 archaeological site.