Dakar is the biggest rally of the world by all terms, no matter what, and also big are the impacts of these news on a global level, captivating the interest and curiosity of many thousands of people from all over the place as we can see for ourselves, but in essence, it faces the exact problems that any other race faces.
We follow many events and even are part of some, from the smallest you can imagine to the biggest that is Dakar Rally, and we can tell you that this situation is far more common than most people want to acknowledge. For a race to be big it needs money, a lot of it, and it can come from various sources, from sponsors, entries, image rights and government support, despite the level. Even smaller races need money, sometimes the people directly involved don't gain anything, but there are the most varied range of expenses and costs the organisers must cover in order to comply all rules and obligations and put a rally in place at a decent level.
In local or national events there are many cases of races that simply vanished because the local authorities stopped supporting them. Even if the fans and teams wanted the race and the organisers were available to work, simply the people in charge like the local mayors or equivalent weren't available to help to pay for the race, either because they don't like the rally or because they don't have the money or just wanted to spend it on something else. Of course, no race can depend only on the local and national government to support the event, but the truth is that they generally support or help supporting a big share of the costs in many of the events all over the world. Just look at the race posters and spot the logos of different government levels that are there alongside other partners and sponsors.
The question is: can the government consider a cross-country rally race an investment or just a cost?
For several government structures, a race means a lot of work about security, logistics and health, just to give you some examples. In some countries, the organisers collect money from one structure to pay another, like the Police or the Emergency services, but in the end, it’s the official structure that is in place to provide security and conditions for the race to be held.
Sometimes, after the event there is also the added cost of road or damage repair caused by several dozens or even hundreds of vehicles passing in the same place at high speed in a short period of time, sometimes even two or more times a day.
All of this add to the final account, sometimes reaching values hard to understand at first sight. From this point of view, this is obviously a cost.
But there is an alternative view to the "cost", which is the "investment".
We were present in many presentation ceremonies, but one in particular is to remember for ever. One day at an international race, the Mayor of the host city said to us all: "Look, we do support the race by egoism. We want the race here because we know it's good for us. The money we spent it with is multiplied many times during these days, as the visitors (racers, media, organisers, and fans) spend a much higher amount all over the city in hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, workshops, petrol stations, and more."
He even mentioned that he wanted the people to feel welcome at his city, and that they can return other times not for the race but for other motives. And he also wanted us to show the best we see there, taking the images and name of city to a global audience. For us this is a view of a smart and intelligent man. He understood the value of the race even if it has some costs.
Cross-country rallies often are held in poor areas, and the amount of business, some even made at very speculative prices by the locals, is always very welcome and can provide a very interesting "bonus" in the income of those businesses.
One of the many roots of the problem is communication. The organisers should be intelligent enough to show the value of their event and convert the word "cost" into "valuable investment". It is not easy, we know. But we did it ourselves at a smaller scale and we know it is not impossible. Unfortunately, this is not possible in all cases. We know some officials that simply don't like the races or don't care about it. But probably are willing to pay twice for an event just for ten people.
Other cause is politics: in many of the cases this has always political liasons, and in the decision moment the person in charge is not counting euros, dollars or other currency to spend on the race, but is counting votes to secure a future election.
And finally, the public opinion, which is maybe the most important. It is always good to have the biggest support possible, from all quadrants of life. But in today’s world, full of "fundamentalists" of many types, most with roots in social media, can be difficult to get the support of people that often pay more attention to someone that they don't even know but is on their "friend" list, despite learning about the best and more truthful arguments.
Returning to the Dakar Rally. The scale of this race is huge when compared to anything else, but the upsides and downsides are the same, only bigger. Just imagine the governments of South America as the mayors in a smaller event. Unfortunately, most of them are in real economic troubles and are facing many challenges in the upcoming months or years. But Dakar made a lot for the promotion of the region, took there many people, and for sure the foreigners who went there during the race days should have spent much more money along the route than the sum of government costs. Not counting obviously the indirect value of the promotion of those countries. Communication is always the problem, maybe between organisation and governments, or between governments and their people that can't turn word "cost" into "investment".
Wait... we know "ASO" is not Mother Teresa (to say the least) and is in fact a company that must provide their stakeholders with income, but we said before that we will leave the "business" side of the issue out of this analysis. Maybe it could be wise on their side to ask a little bit less money and scale down some details of the race to save money.
This short analysis has several faults. For example, we didn't metion the businesses related with the races that move huge sums of money, and aren't well understood by the ones outside this world but that often have a lot of weight in the decisions that affect the sport. For now, we only wanted to show the difference between "cost" and "investment" in a cross-country rally race from the perspective of the authorities or people with decision power.
Our opinion, and we aren't impartial, because we are linked to the sport in many ways, is that cross-country rallies should be considered one investment by the officials. We know in dept from small to medium events, and their problems are exactly the same only at a different scale. Even scaling up, the problems remain equal. Same happens with the return, the bigger the event, the bigger the reward. Any mayor or government can only be happy if he sees his own people making good business, seeing cities and towns promoted, watching people coming to know his region, etc.
Any officials reading this, please "INVEST" and don't "SPEND".