By Shane McGinley
Gulf state eyes staging rights for 2014, 2016 annual cycling race held in July
Qatar is launching a bid to stage the start of the annual Tour de France cycling race in 2014 or 2016, media reports said Tuesday.
UK newspaper the Daily Mail said Qatar, which in December won the right to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, would lobby to stage the Grand Depart, which kicks off the popular race.
According to French newspaper the Journal du Dimanche, the emirate will compete with Venice, Florence, Barcelona, Berlin, Scotland and Yorkshire to host the start of the race.
News wire Reuters, however, quoted a source as saying the gas-rich Gulf state hoped to stage the Grand Depart in 2016.
"His highness [the Emir] has had this idea in mind for quite a while. They have started the discussions and the process," said an unnamed source with close ties to the Qatar government.
The annual cycling race begins in July, during Qatar’s hottest summer months.
“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,” the source said.
It wouldn’t be the first time the tour has begun in a country other than France. London hosted the start of the race in 2007, while Belgium is set to stage its departure in 2012.
The Gulf state has existing links to the race. State-owned Qatar Airways signed a sponsorship deal to become the official airline for the 2011 tour, which ended on Sunday.
Qatar said earlier this month it was mulling a bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
The emirate is already hosting the 2015 World Handball Championships and is among the contenders for the 2017 World Athletics Championships.