Chile to again host off-road race in 2015 Dakar Rally

SANTIAGO, May 28 (Xinhua) -- Chile will once again be able to host the Dakar Rally, due to a drop in the cost of the event, as well as measures to protect environmental and arqueological heritage, a top official said Wednesday.

Sports Minister Natalia Riffo said agreements reached with the organizers of the controversial race will cut the costs to the host country, and ensure protections are in place for ecological and historical sites.

The rugged off-road race has cost as much as 6 million U.S. dollars in the past, Riffo told reporters in the capital Santiago, adding it cost 5.5 million dollars in 2013, 4 million dollars this year and again 4 million dollars 2015, thanks to accords reached with the French firm that organizes the race, the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO).

Amaury has also pledged to contribute funds to the rebuilding of towns affected by April's powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake, said Riffo, without detailing the amounts.

"There are others (agreements) tied to resources the government used to provide but which the organization will now provide in the regions that were damaged," said Riffo.

The sports minister stressed the importance of considering the race's impact on the environment and on archeology, and said both officials and organizers would work to prevent the competition from causing any damage.

Once known as the Paris to Dakar Rally, the race was moved to South America in 2009, specifically Argentina and Chile. In 2012 and 2013, the route also included Peru, and in 2014, Bolivia.

Organizers cited security as the main reason for changing the location of the race, but Europe's powerful environmental movements played a key role in the relocation.

The 2015 edition of the rally is to take place in six stages in Chile, passing through its northern cities of Copiapo, Antofagasta, Iquique and Calama, and also traverse parts of Argentina and Bolivia.