Same race, different continent? Chile offers to host Dakar Rally
SANTIAGO, Chile -- The Chilean government will back a proposal to bring the Dakar Rally to South America after terrorist threats forced the cancellation of the off-road endurance race traditionally staged across the Sahara desert.
The head of the Chilean Tourism Service, Oscar Santelices, said a formal letter will be sent next week to the France-based rally organizer Amaury Sports Organization expressing Chile's interest to host it.
Santelices told local media, however, that no financial support would be committed.
Chile's deputy sports minister, Jaime Pizarro, also said the government would be interested as "the idea appears on the line with the official policy of hosting important international sports events."
The reaction in Chile came after the Spanish sports newspaper As reported that South America was being considered as an alternative to the African territory, and that the epic motorcycle, car and truck race, staged annually since 1979, could cross through Argentina, Brazil and Chile.
In Chile, the rally would go through the northern Atacama desert, the world's driest, where a local rally called Patagonia-Atacama is staged annually.
Local media reported that across the Andes in Argentina, organizers of the annual Rally of the Pampas are also interested in hosting a portion of the Dakar Rally.
Carlo De Gavardo, a Chilean motorcycle rider who has competed in the Dakar Rally several times, said a major advantage for South American countries hosting the rally is the security they offer in the territories where the race would be staged.
He said a decision on the new site would probably be made in February, and that other likely alternatives are Australia, Russia and China.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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