The cancellation comes after a spate of violent incidents in the north African nation of Mauritania, which were allegedly carried out by a terrorist group with Al-Qaida connections. Last week, a family of four French tourists was slain in Mauritania, and a few days later, three Mauritanian soldiers were killed at a checkpoint; and according to our correspondent on the ground, there was another "ethnic-cleansing"-type shooting yesterday along what would have been a part of the race route. The race was slated to start tomorrow, but obviously, given the inability of local governments in Mali and Mauritania to guarantee the security of the competitors, the French organizers felt it wisest to call the whole thing off.
And yes, that huge sucking sound you hear is the sound of millions of race-sponsor dollars going down the drain.
And this begs another question: Is there any future for this race? The Dakar Rally's organizers have already been forced in recent years to cancel multiple stages, and relocate whole sections of the race, due to terrorist concerns. Much of the African continent in general has been susceptible to bouts of murderous ethnic and religious strife, and given the current volatile state of geopolitics in the Islamic world, you have to wonder if the Rally's organizers might be better served in the long run by looking for another venue. I don't have any easy answers for this---does anyone else?