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Tue 7 May 2019 09:59 AM

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Saudi Arabia's 2019 Formula E Grand Prix to see 150% attendance increase

Exclusive: 10,000 trees will be planted to 'beautify' the Diriyah area for the event

Saudi Arabia's 2019 Formula E Grand Prix to see 150% attendance increase
Antonio Felix da Costa (PRT), BMW I Andretti Motorsports, BMW iFE.18 leads the start of the race, followed by Jose Maria Lopez (ARG), GEOX Dragon Racing, Penske EV-3 and Sebastien Buemi (CHE), Nissan e.Dams, Nissan IMO1 during the Formula E Championship Ad Diriyah E-Prix on December 15, 2018 in Ad Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Joe Portlcok/Handout/Getty Images)

Approximately 100,000 people are expected at the Diriyah E-Prix Formula-E race later this year, up from 40,000 in 2018, Gerard ‘Jerry’ Inzerillo, CEO of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority has revealed.

In an exclusive interview with Arabian Business, Inzerillo said that Saudi authorities intentionally limited the number of guests at the 2018 race.

“We had to cap it off because we didn’t know how much capacity we could handle,” he said, “but in 2019 we believe we’ll have 100,000 people.”

Inzerillo added that Saudi authorities – including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – were highly encouraged by the success of the event.

“The guests that came loved it. The Crown Prince was overjoyed and saw that his experiment worked,” he said. “Now he’s willing to open up the iris to allow more people to participate in that festivity.”

Although dates for the event have not been finalised yet, Inzerillo said they will be announced soon and that it will likely take place “at the end of the year.”

Gerard ‘Jerry’ Inzerillo, CEO of the  Diriyah Gate Development Authority

Additionally, Inzerillo said that the Diriyah Gate Authority, together with a number of Saudi ministries such as General Entertainment Authority and General Sports Authority, have already begun planning for the event.

As part of the plans, the site is being “beautified” and made more green and family friendly.

“We’ve already planted 2,300 trees and put 7km of sidewalks and running paths, which was just for the 2018 race,” he noted. “By the 2019 race, we’re planting 10,000 trees and putting 10 miles of trails and walking areas, and picnic areas for families. It’s going to be beautiful.

"We’re also popping up all kinds of activities and restaurants that were unbelievably well received last time,” he added.

Although not all Diriyah’s hotels will be operational in time for the 2019 race, Inzerillo said that Riyadh’s hotels are expected to be fully booked and capable of managing the influx of people.

Last year’s Formula E event in Diriyah included concerts by OneRepublic and superstar DJ/producer David Guetta, as well as Jason Derulo, Enrique Iglesias, Amr Diab and the Black Eyed Peas.

For the first time in the kingdom’s history, 30-day tourist visas were made available via the new online Sharek process.

Arabian Business digital magazine: read the latest edition online