Fans at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix touchy issue


Abu Dhabi F1 pushing for fan return Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

An Abu Dhabi tourism official told mediapersons that they are keeping fingers crossed as regards fans being allowed to attend this year’s Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December but not at the expense of exposing fans to coronavirus risk. The season-concluding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will take place at the Yas Marina Circuit on December 13th, 2020.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a Formula One motor race. It was announced in early 2007 at the Abu Dhabi F1 Festival in the United Arab Emirates. The first race took place on November 1, 2009, held at the Hermann Tilke designed Yas Marina Circuit.

The Yas Marina Circuit is the venue for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The circuit was designed by Hermann Tilke, and is situated on Yas Island, about 30 minutes from the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi. Yas Marina is the second Formula One track in the Middle East, with the first being in Bahrain.

With COVID-19 wallop on in major parts of the world, allowing fans into arenas have become a risky proposition both for the venue operators as well as the fans and stringent coronavirus rules are in place even in stadia where limited supporters have been allowed entry.

Saeed Al Saeed, Marketing Director, Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) Abu Dhabi, acknowledged that allowing a restricted number of fans into the Yas Circuit is something that he has been “pushing”, particularly in light of the successful Fight Island and Return to Fight Island UFC events.

However, he added that there would be a “zero tolerance” approach to potential health and safety risks.

The F1 calendar has gone for a six this year due to the pandemic, with races in Australia, the Netherlands, Vietnam, Monaco (a country in Europe), the US, Mexico, Brazil and Canada all canceled as a result of coronavirus which has ripped the world apart. Even the races that have gone ahead so far have done so sans spectators.

“The permission for 20,000 fans is within the decision of the State that allows up to 20 percent of stadium capacity for major sports events if infection figures are inconspicuous and the public infrastructure allows for social distancing rules to be met,” the Ahrweiler district council said in a statement.

Al Saeed added, “I’m glad that’s happening in Germany because that’s an indicator for us at Abu Dhabi that Formula One themselves are open to the possibility. So, now it comes down to looking at the actual circuit, the stands, the entrances, the ins and outs and how to be socially distant.”

He further told mediapersons, “That is a good indicator for us. It is about the fans and none more so than the Formula One as an event, especially with us in Abu Dhabi. I think a lot of people are not even Formula One fans that show up to the F1 weekend, that enjoy the lifestyle components, the City-wide activation, the parties and the socializing.”

“Even if it’s just 10 percent of what would happen in normal year could come back, we would definitely be more than happy to support it and see it happen,” Al Saeed maintained.

Around 135,000 visitors attended last year’s Formula 1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi.

According to analysts STR, occupancy levels in Abu Dhabi’s hotels reached 90.45 percent during last year’s event.

“It’s a complicated task to ensure there are zero risks involved and there are many entities that need to actually approve the plan once it’s put in place, but we are more than happy to discuss it with any entity that wants to look at the learnings we’ve had from our experience, how best to approach it and what needs to happen in order for it to become a reality,” the tourism official maintained.

Five Abu Dhabi sporting extraordinaire

  • The season-concluding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is one of the highlights of the F1 calendar and it is in this fixture that the world champion is officially crowned each year;
  • Some of the tennis greats are attracted to the Emirate each year for the Mubadala Championships;
  • One of the biggest events and winner’s checks on the European Tour golf circuit is the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship;
  • Abu Dhabi is earning a worldwide reputation as the destination for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) with its Fight Island events; and
  • Although canceled earlier this year because of coronavirus, Abu Dhabi is now a fixture on the ITU World Triathlon circuit, attracting some of the sport’s biggest names.

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