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500,000 spectators! The enthusiasm of Argentines for motor-sports is not to be underestimated. In the country of Fangio, the discipline's aficionados were present in their masses for the Dakar. 80,000 visitors paid to enter the rally village ...

500,000 spectators!

The enthusiasm of Argentines for motor-sports is not to be underestimated. In the country of Fangio, the discipline's aficionados were present in their masses for the Dakar. 80,000 visitors paid to enter the rally village over two days, and on 2nd January, 500,000 spectators watched the riders and drivers throughout the presentation parade organized in the center of the Argentine capital. This figure is an absolute record for the Dakar in a city where football matches at the home of Boca Juniors, the mythical Bombonera stadium, usually attract 55,000 spectators, i.e., 10 times less!

Six hours live coverage on Fox Sports

The continent's sports channel Fox Sports pulled out all the stops to broadcast the ceremony during which the competitors were presented to the public, organized at the foot of the Obelisk in Buenos Aires. The program lasted for six hours to celebrate the launch of the Dakar 2009. A dozen cameramen were on duty for the occasion, as well as the commentators, consultants and technicians. In total, 70 accredited staff were at work for Fox Sports.

Spellbound

"It's crazy", noted one of the competitors after their short drive through the avenues of the Argentine capital, on their way to the podium. Impressed by the crowds of aficionados come to encourage them, they all admitted to being bowled over by such unbridled passion. "I was nearly in tears, it was that moving", said Cyril Joannin, "As soon as we left the enclosure, within seconds it was madness". Turkey's Kutlu Torunlar, overjoyed at such encouragements, explained that for him it was, "a natural high. Feeling such support gives me so much strength". One of the leaders on the 'clapometer', Argentine Marcelo Miti, who will be riding on a bike decked out in Argentine colours, is drawing on this energy in the hope to become the first rider from his country to finish in this category: "Right along the route, all I could here was 'Go Argentina!".

Dancing to a Tango beat

In the land of Carlos Gardel, the tango is never far off. During the presentation of the vehicles, the spectators enjoyed several performances from the "Tango" cabaret troupe, a veritable institution in Argentina, whose home is on 9th July Avenue, a stone's throw away from the podium. A dozen dancers, accompanied by five musicians, interpreted a concise version of their show, mixing traditional tendencies with modern aspects of the national dance.

An excited audience

At the foot of the Obelisk on 9th July Avenue, the barriers strained under the weight of the enthusiastic crowd. Just getting enough room to take a photo was a titanic struggle. Claudio, 52 years old, came from Bella Villa, 50 km away, to have a closer look at the racers. It is such an important rally that he describes it as a "huge event": "I'm fascinated by the bikes. If only I could do what they're doing!" As of tomorrow, he is leaving for Cordoba to stay with friends whose land is crossed by the rally's route. Also, Gustavo, a 40-year old policeman from Buenos Aires, had come to see "the machines of my dreams". He is devoting his holiday to the Dakar and will be going to see it at Nihuil next. Ana Lia, 31 years old, and her fiance Gaston came from the Avellaneda district: "We want to see everything; we'll be staying to see the very last vehicle. It's fantastic!"

-credit: aso

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Series Dakar