Qatar pitching for Tour de France Grand Depart
Gulf nation wants to host event in 2016
Despite the size of their country, they think big in Qatar. After bagging the biggest single-sport tournament of them all, the World Cup, the Qataris have, apparently, set their sights on hosting a Tour de France Grand Depart in 2016.
With the UCI Asia’s Tour of Qatar organised by ASO already firmly established on the calendar - the tenth edition was held this year - the tiny Gulf state does at least have some experience of hosting professional cycling.
Qatar Airways is also the official airline of the Tour and it was aboard one of the airline’s jets, rather than the usual TGV, that the riders made their way to the final stage in Paris over the weekend.
However, whether teams, riders and sponsors would accept the Grand Depart being removed from a European setting and deposited in the searing heat and high humidity of a desert kingdom in the height of summer may be dependent on the petro-dollar incentives. The Qataris have proved in the past that they have the wealth to change the mindset of many a naysayer.
Fans, on the other hand, are likely to have little enthusiasm for the idea of one of cycling’s great spectacles being held in a different time zone and in a location that would require considerable expenditure to reach.
But the Qataris are nothing if not ambitious and a spokesperson close to the nation's rulers said: "His highness (the Emir) has had this idea in mind for quite a while. They have started the discussions and the process."
As for the inevitable questions about how athletes would be expected to perform in extremes of heat and humidity the source said: "I think there are options to manage it. We can have a small prologue, not too long, with water sprayed at certain points. There is no technical problem with doing it here.”