Saturday, January 03, 2009

Right, we're going to move the event 3,000 miles west!

Remember the fuss Arsenal fans made when told that Highbury was going to be replaced by Ashburton Grove, or the murmurs of discontent among Hammers fans when the club announced plans to move down the District Line from Upton Park to West Ham. Well imagine you are a hotel owner in Senegal or a small business owner who has spent the last few months advertising your hotel or your annual promotions budget on t-shirts, posters and other paraphernalia only to discover that the one event you were relying on for your income has moved. This time though, unlike Arsenal or West Ham, you haven't seen the main source of your income move a mile away, it's gone 3,000 miles away!

The Paris-Dakar, known as Le Dakar, is renowned as one of the world’s great motor sport adventures: a race through dunes and deserts to the Senegalese capital. If you've ever watched this on television, courtesy of Eurosport, you know it's the closest man has come to turning Death Race 3000 into a major sporting event. Racing across an area that is as inhospitable as it is uninhabitable leads to death, destruction, injury - and unfortunately that's usually among the spectators.

The reason for the move is quite simple, al-Qaeda. A terrorist cell that has its value system (mis)guided by a religion that is backward even by normal religious standards doesn't like the event. The fact that the people of Senegal love it doesn't come into the equation and the race organisers: The Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) has decided that the risks of staging the event in Africa are too great and they have said that it is unlikely that it will return to the continent in the new future, I personally cannot see any reason why it should return at all whilst al-Qaeda exists. It's easy to stand with a stiff upper lip and say, "come on chaps, we mustn't give in to terrorists," when it's not your arse that's being blown-up.

The competing vehicles (530 of them) have all been shipped to South America where the race will take place around Argentina and Chile. Some critics have suggested that the race be renamed The Buenos Aires but the organisers have said a name's a name and it won't be changed.

A total of 82 lorries, 188 cars, 230 motorcycles and 30 quads will take part in the 5,951-mile (9,580km) race through Argentina and Chile. The 15-day rally will start and finish in Buenos Aires and take in the Andes, Atacama desert and the Patagonian pampas on a route that organisers say will prove as gruelling as the Sahara.

Of course the people of Senegal are a little upset by the transfer of the race and see it as an affront to their national identity.

Senegal’s National Agency for the Promotion of Tourism said that the move to South America would cost it €2 million (£1.9 million) in revenue. “It’s unacceptable to create a doubt about our security,” an official said.

Mr Lavigne said: “Unfortunately, the news from Africa is terribly dramatic. I would remind you that al-Qaeda is still talked about a lot. Last September 12 Mauritanian soldiers were kidnapped and decapitated in a place to which we had been to 30 times.”

Last year’s Dakar rally was cancelled after four French tourists were murdered in Mauritania and al-Qaeda in North Africa threatened further attacks on French people.

Having checked out the progress of the race this morning I can only say that the people of BA are loving every minute of it, an estimated half a million lined the streets as it passed through the Argentine capital.


Span Ows said...

Indeed and my Chilean friends are only too pleased about getting more of their patria in the media (Atacama being the driest desert in the world I believe)

P.S. Totally unrelated I thought you'd like could have written it yourself!

P.P.S. Happy New Year!

P.P.P.S I think I've already said that, haven't I?

Paul said...

Happy new year to you too. I've still not made it to Chile but I saw a film a few years ago about the Atacama under a clear sky and I just know I'll have to go there. It's so hard to get away from light pollution in this country, I've been lucky in France to experience it but even in the New Forest you have the 'glow' of Southampton or Fawley!

P.S Happy New Year

I read the Adam Smith link and it does seem familiar. Funny thing is that the only thing I agree with i.moore about is the economy and regulation, I guess Gavin was right all along left and right aren't that far apart!