Is this really what the world has come to? It seems even a legendary rally in the twisted minds of Al-Qaeda is contrary to their beliefs.
The Dakar Rally, the legendary race across the Sahara which is one of motorsport’s toughest and most dangerous competitions, has been cancelled for the first time in its 30-year history because of security fears. There have been security warnings in the past, but never potent enough to scrap the entire race.
The Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), which organizes the race, said it took the last-minute decision following the recent murders of four French tourists in Mauritania, as well as threats from terrorist groups against the rally itself, which was due to start in Lisbon on Friday.
Three gunmen, who police suspect were linked to Al-Qaeda, shot dead four French tourists in Mauritania on Dec. 24 as they had a picnic at the roadside near the border with Senegal.
About 570 teams had registered to take part in this year’s event. Their support vehicles had already started the long journey and the fuel needed to power the cars over the dunes was sent ahead.
In addition to bitterly disappointed teams and fans, the cancellation will also hurt the villages and cities which enjoy an economic windfall from the rally. The head of the hoteliers’ association in Senegal, where the race was due to end on January 20th , said the losses would run into hundreds of thousands of dollars and the bad publicity could hurt the country’s image as a tourist destination.
Not everyone will mourn the lack of a Dakar Rally this year. On some fronts the Rally is also an equal opportunity violator. Organizers have been criticized for sending powerful race cars speeding through the sands and savannahs of countries where some residents are not made sufficiently aware. In 2006, children in Guinea and Senegal died as the result of lack of pre race warnings and proper course security.
Some revised info thanks to crack staffer Gary Faules
Chile offers to host 2008 Dakar Rally
SANTIAGO (AFP) Ã¢â‚¬â€ Chile on Wednesday said it was willing to host the 2008 Dakar Rally that was cancelled due to security concerns, and would soon write the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) making its offer, a government official said.”We’ve taken up the concerns of the federations (of auto and motorcycle racing) and our intent is to satisfy their needs,” said Undersecretary of Sports Jaime Pizarro.”Most important is what the French organization (ASO) decides. We’re preparing a letter laying out our official proposal,” said National Tourist Service director Oscar Santelices.He said Chile had the required conditions of stability, infrastructure and geography to hold the Dakar Rally, but did not rule out including neighboring Argentina in the enterprise.Santelices said Argentina had already sent representatives to France offering their territory for the cancelled rally, but that it did not pose any impediment to a joint venture.”Deciding where (the rally) starts and where it finishes is the ASO’s task. But first we have to bring it to South America,” he added.The 2008 Dakar Rally had been due to start on Saturday in Lisbon, but the murder of four French tourists in Mauritania on December 24 led to the French government advising against any travel to the country and race organisers cancelling the 30th edition of the event.Eight of the rally’s stages were due to pass through the Mauritania en route south for Dakar and the scheduled finish on January 20.It was the first time the rally had been cancelled since its creation in 1979.Dakar Rally organisers are also considering a race through central Europe this spring to replace the marathon race, the head of the Czech KM Racing Team, Pavel Kubicek, told AFP in Prague on Monday.Ã‚Â