By Susan Westemeyer
The Emirate of Qatar has officially applied to Tour de France organiser ASO to hold a prologue of the race in the country on the Persian Gulf. Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme confirmed that he had received the application, signed by Prince Al-Thani.
"Two years ago we examined the climatological conditions in Qatar, along with Eddy Merckx, to see what a race in the summer would be like," he told Sportwereld. "Our main concern is for the riders."
The problem, of course, is the weather, with average temperatures in June and July hitting 41° Celsius. But this being 'average', it means it gets hotter in the middle of the day, up to 50° Celsius. And that's out in the desert, which surprisingly, isn't the hottest part of the country. "It's also worse in the city, where air-conditioners pump cold air into the houses but hot air into the city, and the humidity in coastal areas more than compensates for a slightly lower temperature," according to Qatarvisitor.com, which concludes, "Everyone who can leaves Qatar for the summer."
To combat this, the Qatar cycling federation has come up with the unique idea of building a covered and cooled cycling tunnel, in which the prologue could take place. The building plans already exist.
"The candidacy is a logical step for Qatar, which after hosting the Asian Games in 2006, is also a candidate for the Olympic Games of 2016," Prudhomme said. "The distance shouldn't be a problem. When we took the Tour to London, everyone said we were crazy." Now, he indicated, Qatar is a possibility for the Tour in 2014.