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Dakar Rally

Even if the Dakar cross-country hadn’t been cancelled, it wouldn’t have begun in Paris. Once known as The Paris-Dakar Rally, it hasn’t begun in Paris since 1995. Over the years, the 7,000 mile race open to amateurs and professionals has changed its starting and finishing points a number of times. This year the cross-country race would have begun in Lisbon, Portugal. Still, for French spectators the race is closely followed – perhaps even with greater sentiment than the Grand Prix or Le Mans. Whereas those races are all about the racing personalities, Paris-Dakar is just as much about the desert, the drama and the sense of adventure involved in such a feat.
The timing in January is just the thing to chase away the mid-winter blues and when Paris’ streets are gay and drizzly, you push away the clouds with the images of jeeps, motorcycles and trucks negotiating sand dunes.
Back in mid-nineties, Paris’s mayor no longer wanted the rally to start on the Champs Elysees and shipped it out to Eurodisney. L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican City newspaper described the rally as “a vulgar display of power and wealth in places where men continue to die from hunger and thirst.”
At most, one might consider the decision to cancel the race as hypocritical for several reasons. Already, a number of people have died over the years – it’s a risky race. You’re driving for long hours in extremely inhospitable terrain (geographically speaking). A sudden sandstorm caused a news crew to plow into a dune one year.
If there were a right reason to cancel the rally, it would have been done back in 1988 when the first African child was killed crossing the route. How many citizens of Monaco have been killed during a Formula 1 race? The argument here would be that these were accidents that unfortunately could not have been prevented and here is a situation that can be prevented – so finally let’s do the right thing and cancel the race.
The Dakar Rally organizers do intend to organize the Rally in 2009 -maybe by that time the African countries through which the rally passes will have enough time to consider if they really want the race to come back – and continue to ensure the safety of residents, residents’ livestock as well as the safety of participants.
You can read some of the criticisms concerning environmental issues and humanitarian issues in the Wikipedia summary
Described by as “undoubtedly the largest, longest, most famous, riskiest and most covered rally in the world” (except in the US – my ad lib)
“Hundreds of motorcyclists, drivers of cars, trucks, buggies and every other motorized vehicle imaginable set out from the Eiffel Tower in Paris”
If the 2009 Rally does take place, wouldn’t it be great to see the race start once again in Paris?
Do you have any comments about this event? Do you thing that the Dakar rally has brought more prosperity or more heartache to the countries through which it passes?