How are you preparing for the opening race of Formula E, and how excited are you about welcoming fans back to Diriyah?
Formula E is one of the most important highlights in the Diriyah events calendar, and as such, we have been doing a huge amount to prepare. Our infrastructure has been strengthened, with improvements to our road and transportation network being of particular note, allowing those traveling to the event to have a smooth, fantastic time when the season starts.
It is also the perfect opportunity to showcase Diriyah’s position as a global gathering place, as visitors come from all corners of the world 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 we have with the likes of Formula E. Welcoming modern events to the Kingdom and to Diriyah is our greatest pleasure as it tests our preparedness as a culturally-connected global hub of not just sports, but also entertainment, culture, heritage and education.
The spectacle and electricity of the Formula E racecourse set against the historic backdrop of Diriyah is a fitting representation of our shared vision — to respectfully protect the essence of our past but make strides towards the future. We can’t wait to welcome the fans back in person again this year.
This season marks the fourth year in a row that the race is in Diriyah. What is new that fans and visitors can look forward to?
Last year during the pandemic we were lucky enough to run our first night race under LED lights. It looked brilliant on television and had an enormous positive response from the fans. This year will be the first time that fans will see the night race in person at the track. I just know it’s going to be the most sensational experience for them.
We are also delighted that a new qualifying format will be unveiled in Diriyah for the first time this year, as well as a spectacular concert line up especially for this year, including artists such as Craig David, Wyclef Jean, James Blunt, Two Door Cinema Club and The Script.
This is Diriyah’s fourth hosting occasion of the E-Prix in four years, and the now internationally renowned street racing track around our UNESCO World Heritage site At-Turaif will come alive under the floodlights as Saudi Arabia leads the way in adding even more thrill to what is one of the world’s fastest growing sports.
The inaugural Diriyah E-Prix in 2018 was the Kingdom’s first major international event; in 2019 it became the Middle East’s first double-header and in 2021, it was the first ever night race for the all-electric ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.
Huge thanks and praise must go to Prince Abdul Aziz, Saudi Arabia’s minister of sports, and His Royal Highness Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, for their excellent leadership, as well as the whole Ministry of Sports team who are helping to deliver such a unique and exciting spectacle 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 the exceptionally distinctive character of Diriyah. It is going to be a mixed-use space with culture firmly at its heart. There will be a tangible connection to the history in its execution, with everything built in the traditional Najdi style, but one that works hand-in-hand with innovation and the future.
There is an immense pride in Diriyah amongst Saudis, particularly with it being the birthplace of the Saudi state. When I bring people to Diriyah, whether they be global brands or regional players, they fall in love with it. The uniqueness of any project starts with the location, so what we’re trying to do is curate an experience that delivers an authentic connection with visitors to Diriyah as a place. One of the ways we’re doing that is by restoring our UNESCO World Heritage Site at At-Turaif, which will open later this year. There aren’t many new developments in the world that can boast that sort of centerpiece.
We are also looking forward to opening up our latest fine dining area at Bujairi Terrace in Q1 of this year. The district overlooks At-Turaif and is soon to be home to some major global food and beverage brands as well as local Saudi cuisine which together will provide a world class culinary offering.
When the Kingdom gears up to open its doors to international travelers, where does Diriyah Gate fit within the national tourism strategy?
As one of the most important tourism-oriented giga-projects, we are a critical component of the national tourism strategy’s success. Our project is enormous in scale, we will create 55,000 jobs and aim to attract 27 million visitors a year. As one of the first giga-projects slated to open, it really is the catalyst of Vision 2030, and is critical to the Vision’s success pledge to raise tourism’s contribution to the Kingdom’s GDP from 3 percent to 10 percent by the end of the decade.
With the amount of large-scale sporting events that have now taken place in Diriyah, can we look forward to any other major events being hosted in Diriyah in the near future?
Alongside the hosting of annual events brought to us by our partners at the Ministry of Sport, like “Sports for All,” we will also be putting together a program of our own DGDA sports and lifestyle events in line with what we have delivered before, like 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 expect to host multiple annual events covering a wide variety of spectator sports, with world class sports 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 in addition to that, DGDA is working on identifying further venues that promote a healthier and more active lifestyle across the project, with more to be announced in due course.
How does Formula E’s sustainability vision align with DGDA?
Formula E aspires to accelerate change towards an electric future, as well as raising awareness and inspiring change in sustainable practises, contributing to reducing global carbon emissions and urban air pollution. We at DGDA share this vision and are putting in place measures to ensure that the development complies with the highest sustainability and environmental standards.
We want to create a place where heritage and history are respected, protected, and are seamlessly interwoven with sustainability and environmental considerations to create a world class global cultural and lifestyle hub. This is an exciting challenge and is one we at DGDA can’t wait to deliver.
Our environmental and sustainability initiatives ensure environmental compliance, by embedding international best practices, innovative technologies, and sustainability certification targets in all our projects.
Drawing on the Kingdom’s rich past, the buildings in Diriyah will reflect the Najdi architecture of 300 years ago, newly adapted for 21st century living. Our handmade mud brick walls, locally sourced materials, palm groves and farms embody a contextualized approach to both social and environmental sustainability, resonating with the history of the site while responding to the local climatic conditions.
The use of locally sourced materials also contributes to the reduction of whole-life carbon associated with the development, reducing the transportation miles associated with material procurement and installation, while also promoting support for the local economy.
The prospect of lighting up the night sustainably was a challenge that drove great creativity and innovation between 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 be held under the glow of low consumption LED technology lighting that uses up to 50 percent less energy to non-LED lighting. This is a vital aspect to Formula E, with its very inception being focused on reduced carbon emissions — and being the first sport to have net zero carbon since it launched eight years ago.