The popularity of the Paris-Dakar rally in the 1980s drew on both a growing market for new adventure sports in France and nostalgia for colonial-era narratives of desert exploration. Since its inception, the event has provided a spectacle of motorised speed, physical suffering, technical prowess and logistical expertise, set against a backdrop of splendid scenery. The race has also been criticised for transforming some of the poorest locations in the world into a playground for a (predominantly) Western and wealthy elite and for the death toll that it has incurred in its wake. Such criticisms followed the rally along its various African itineraries and on its transposition to South America in 2009. In its early versions, the Paris-Dakar was the vehicle for the nostalgic re-enactment of French colonial-era exploits in Africa, and the subject of virulent criticism for its neo-colonial connotations and material effects. The contemporary ‘Dakar’ emerges in this analysis as a demonstration of the ‘deterritorialising’ potential of the sports-media nexus, with its opponents attesting to its contribution to the global disenfranchisement of local communities.
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