The FIA and representatives from its national sporting authorities (ASNs) and national automobile clubs (ACNs) assembled in Muscat this week (10-12 February) for the tenth edition of the FIA Sport Regional Congress held in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.
The Congress, hosted for the first time by the Oman Automobile Association (OAA), was led by FIA President Jean Todt, FIA Deputy President for Sport Graham Stoker, FIA Vice-President for MENA Mohammed Ben Sulayem, FIA Deputy Vice-President for MENA Imad Lahoud and Brigadier Salim Al Khalifa Al Maskiry, Chairman of the Board of Directors of OAA.
The activities were held in respectful tribute to Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said of Oman, the Arab world’s longest-serving ruler who passed away one month ago.
“We are grateful to Brigadier Salim, the Oman Automobile Association and the people of Oman for the warm welcome that has been extended to our delegation here in Muscat during this very sad time for their country. The Congress was held in the spirit of furthering Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said’s profound and important legacy, in Oman and across the Middle East,” said Jean Todt.
“MENA is a dynamic region, with four world championship events, two in Formula One – in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi – one in World Endurance, in Bahrain, and the World RX of Abu Dhabi. The Formula E rounds in Saudi Arabia and Marrakech will soon be part of the latest FIA World Championship, and there are many more successful events in Rally, Cross Country, Hill Climb and Karting.
“In particular I would like to mention the MENA Karting Challenge, organised this year in tandem with this Congress in Oman, with 15 countries represented in the Nations Cup. Funded by the FIA Sport Grants Programme, this is the first new regional event since the Middle East Rally Championship was founded in the early 1980s. As we know, the importance of karting cannot be understated as a springboard to other motor sport disciplines, so I congratulate MENA for organising such an event.”
The Congress included sessions on new disciplines and events such as the FIA Motorsport Games, Cross Country, Drifting, Hill Climb and Grassroots programmes. Additionally, it offered guidance to the ASNs on how to organise safe and enjoyable events, improve management and commercialisation, and make further strides in wider motor sport development, including the identification of new talent. The programme was organised under the leadership of Andrew Papadopoulos of the FIA’s ASN Development Task Force.
A number of interactive workshops provided insights and encouraged debate on the topics of FIA Grants, FIA Motorsport Games National Team Selection and FIA Training.
Jean Todt continued: “This Congress is always at the forefront of FIA events in terms of environmental commitment. Effort should now be spread to other motor sport stakeholders in the region, and in particular F1 Grands Prix in line with the Formula 1-FIA renewed sustainability strategy and commitment to be net zero carbon by 2030.
“I also welcome the engagement on safety, which remains the FIA’s priority. Later this week, the FIA will be conducting the first edition of the Medical and Rescue Workshop here and our staff look forward to welcoming delegates, doctors and rescue crews from across MENA.
“It has also been very pleasing to see the FIA #3500Lives Road Safety campaign displayed throughout Muscat, featuring as its ambassadors my wife Michelle, Pharrell Williams and Michael Fassbender.
“Finally, I would like to mention the FIA Girls on Track event that took place in Saudi Arabia during the Ad Diriyah E-Prix last November with 400 participants. Most of these girls were driving for the first time since the ban was lifted and the FIA truly welcomes this new chapter. It is another illustration of the capacity of sport to contribute to the evolution of society, to promote greater tolerance and gender equality.
In closing, Jean Todt said: “I commend the member clubs from MENA for their sustained efforts in promoting motor sport in the region, and for their inspiring approach to development. Notwithstanding the success already achieved, this excellent Congress has demonstrated that there is still a great deal we can continue to accomplish together.”