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Saudi GP bosses deny ‘sportswashing’ nation’s human rights record with 2021 F1 race after Amnesty International backlash

SAUDI GP bosses deny they want to ‘sportswash’ the country’s human-rights record by paying to host a race next season.

Amnesty International criticised Formula One for adding the Grand Prix to form a 23-race calendar in 2021.

Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal, president of the Saudi Arabian motorsport federation, hopes he can change people’s minds.

He said: "I don't blame them, when you don't know a country, and when you have a certain image of a country.

"I remember myself when my parents used to tell me we're going to go to the US, especially to New York, I was frightened.

"I would think that I'm going to walk in the street and somebody will come and shoot me, because I'd never been there.

"I know why they're not excited about it, because of a lot of issues with the human rights, and because they've never been to Saudi.

"That's why, now for us opening up, and hopefully with people coming in Saudi Arabia, seeing the country, and then going back and reporting what they saw, this will maybe make people change their mind.

"This happened to us with Dakar, we had a lot of people...about 3,000 participants and drivers came.

"Most of them, they had the same impression, and they were not happy."

Prince Khalid added: "Even with Formula E, like BMW and other teams, they said, they didn't want to go to Saudi Arabia.

"But after they came to Saudi Arabia, and after they saw us and met us, they changed their perspective about Saudi Arabia.

"Part of the vision and part of opening up our country, we would like people to come and see who we really are. We don't have anything to hide.

"If we wanted to sportswash our image or something, then we will close our country because we will not let you come and see and meet with our people."

Amnesty International were critical that F1 had added the GP to form a 23-race calendar in 2021.

Prince Khalid said the matter had been discussed with F1 bosses but also stressed that the country does have a different culture.

He added: "We definitely had a conversation on that and I know, maybe this is a thing that a lot of people talk about with Saudi Arabia, but we are not like the other countries.

"We know that we are different. We have our culture. There are things that people can do in other places that they can't do here.

"But we respect our differences, and we are opening our country to anyone.

"We don't have any discriminations, so everybody can come. If you're a man or a woman, there is no segregation.

"Sport brings people together and unites them. So that's why we are hosting these events."

Formula One announce Saudi Arabia Grand Prix

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