Riyadh to host Middle East's first Formula E race
The kingdom will host the opening round of season five in Riyadh in December, authorities announced, after signing a contract with the General Sports Authority and Saudi Arabian Motor Federation as part of Vision 2030.
"Saudi Arabia is looking to the future and Formula E is the motorsport of the future, that’s why this is such an exciting opportunity," Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, vice-chair of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority said.
"It aligns perfectly with the country's 2030 vision and offers the prospect of world-class racing on the streets of the capital for the first time in our history.
The announcement feeds into a drive by powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to modernise his homeland, both in terms of liberalising Saudi society and reducing the economy's overwhelming dependence on oil.
The initiative aims to create 300,000 new jobs and represents a key pillar of the nation's "Vision 2030" reforms.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia launched an ambitious drive to become a culture and entertainment hub as part of sweeping modernisation plans, just months after repealing a decades-long ban on cinemas.
American film star Katie Holmes and British actor-cum-director Idris Elba rubbed shoulders with Saudi officials, as the conservative kingdom on Thursday night kicked off an initiative to invest 130 billion riyals ($34.7 billion, 29 billion euros) in culture and leisure by 2020.
The project, dubbed "Quality of Life Programme 2020," is in part designed to encourage wealthy young citizens to spend more of their leisure time in the kingdom, where more than half the population is below the age of 25.
In February, Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority announced it will stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number of last year, and pump $64 billion in the sector in the coming decade.
The reform stems partly from an economic motive to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the kingdom reels from an oil slump since 2014.
Saudis currently splurge billions of dollars annually to see films and visit amusement parks in neighbouring tourist hubs such as Dubai.