With the UCI Road World Championships Doha 2016 just a few weeks away, preparations for it are in full swing.
All major competitions are made up of numerous little details, the moving parts that make the event machinery work.
Under such circumstances, it is imperative to have a veteran troubleshooter on board to get things back on track. For the Local Organising Committee of the UCI Road World Championships Doha 2016, that person is executive director Ahmed Abdulla al-Hemaidi.
Al-Hemaidi, one of the longest serving officials at the Qatar Cycling Federation, has been an integral part of every decision related to the Road World Championships in Doha.
In a candid chat, he spoke about the competition, its organisation and race favourites. Excerpts:
The UCI Road World Championships are coming to the Middle East for the first time. How much value do you see the event bringing to Qatar?
This is the competition’s first visit to the Middle East and it’s a big honour for us to be chosen to host it. It brings with it a lot of added value for our country. We’ll yet again prove we’re up to the challenge of hosting any kind of sporting event.
Once the event begins, the world’s collective focus will be on Qatar and we’ll do everything possible to showcase our country. We are on target with preparations. We are working hard to ensure the competition is unlike anything seen before.
It is arguably the biggest single-discipline competition Qatar has ever held. We won our bid to host the event during the 2012 UCI Road World Championships in The Netherlands. Ever since then, we have been preparing and counting down days to this event. Now that it is near, we are very excited. We cannot wait for the action to begin. This competition will raise Qatar’s profile to new heights in the world of cycling.
Has the UCI Road World Championships Doha 2016 been a knowledge building exercise for local organisers?
We pride ourselves on the wealth of local expertise we have created by organising major cycling events. Races like the Tour of Qatar, Ladies Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Zubarah helped us build a strong organisational base, in terms of staff and volunteers. It’ll stand us in good stead during the UCI Road World Championships Doha 2016.
Moreover, by regularly putting cycling in the spotlight, we have managed to further popularise it as a healthy exercise option for the public. Over the years, we have also started seeing more youngsters come into the sport. Our future looks really bright.
How different will this race be from the Tour of Qatar and other events in the past?
It will be a totally different experience. Each year, the Tours bring together a limited number of teams, over five or six race days. But the UCI Road World Championships is much wider in scope, with a far greater number of national teams and cyclists. We are expecting around 1,000 riders from 75 countries to take part.
Do you think Asian cyclists will finally make a mark in the tournament, now that it is being hosted in an Asian country?
Yes, I think so. If you look at the past few UCI Road World Championships, Asian riders have been improving consistently. I expect the Japanese, South Korean and Chinese riders to shine in Doha. I wish them well.
Executive Director Ahmed Abdulla al-Hemaidi