Qatar Express Desire to Host Tour de France Grand Depart

July 26, 2011

Qatar, the oil-rich state located in the Middle-East, are not content with just hosting soccer’s FIFA World Cup in 2022. The Qataris have now set their sights on hosting the Tour de France Grand Depart in 2016.

The tiny Gulf state has experience of hosting professional cycling with the UCI Asia’s Tour of Qatar, which had it’s 10th edition take place earlier this year, also being organised by Tour de France operators Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO).

Qatar Airways is also the official airline of the Tour de France 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.

The Grand Depart has history of departing from neighbouring European countries, but never has the Tour began outside the continent.

It is doubted 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, but the Qataris have proved in the past that they have the wealth to change the mindset of many sporting organisations.

Cycling fans 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.

A spokesperson close to the Qatar’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.”