With Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani at the helm, Qatar’s bid committee spent years fighting to host this prestigious cycling event for two reasons: first, Al Thani thinks the presence of ultra lean athletes from other countries will convince Qatari nationals that physical fitness is more fun than shisha and McDonalds, and second, the State wants to send the message that bicycles are better for the environment than cars.
In addition to the UCI Road World Cycling Championship in 2016, the Gulf nation with one of the highest carbon footprints and percentage of fat people will host the 2014 FINA World Swimming Championship, the IHF World Handball Championship (for men only) in 2015, and then the much-discussed FIFA World Cup in 2022.
Al Thani is on a fat-melting, emissions-slashing crusade and he’s using international sporting events to spread his vision.
“Apart from the fact that Qatar will be the first country in the Middle East to host the Road World Championships, the most important aspect of the event is the legacy it will create in terms of physical fitness and awareness about protecting the environment,” Sheikh Saoud said.
In preparation for building a culture of cycling, the state has already starting building some bicycle lanes in Al Waab and near the airport, which doesn’t sound like the most exciting place to burn off calories and choke down soot.
And if Doha is anything like its Gulf cousin Abu Dhabi, cyclists better wear armor when they hit the roads.
Still, we can’t fault Qatar for striving, as part of its National Vision 2030, to build a healthier nation, and for the sake of humanity and the environment, we hope this worldly flurry of athleticism will have its intended effect.
Image credit: Arab Man on Bicycle, Shutterstock