The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will be held today in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.
The event has already sparked widespread criticism from international observers, who view it as an attempt by Saudi Arabia to distract from its human rights record by hosting international sporting events. Additionally, multiple high-profile drivers have voiced their disapproval of the event. Current Formula 1 (F1) champion Lewis Hamilton has said he is “not comfortable” racing in the country and plans on wearing a pride-themed helmet to protest Riyadh’s anti-LGBTQ laws.
Despite these complaints, expect the race to garner a great deal of international media attention. F1 is popular in both Europe and Asia, with each race receiving an average of more than 87 million viewers, and American viewership is steadily expanding. This serves as a prime opportunity for Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to shift the narrative surrounding the country towards its international trade and economic integration.
Pending the success of today’s event, expect further international sporting and cultural events to be organized in the future. This, combined with increasing dialogue between Western leaders and MBS, will likely help to legitimize the current regime.
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Chris is a Content Editor and Analyst for the Daily Brief. His writing focuses on the political economies of North America, the United Kingdom and Oceania.