9/24/2016 7:10:41 PM

'It’s a big honour to host 2016 Worlds'

DOHA: 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 innumerous little details, the moving parts that make the event machinery work. Multiple problems can be expected to crop up, with little or no warning.

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. Here are excerpts from the interview.

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.

Doha has always been an excellent host for international events...

Our sporting legacy truly began with the hosting of the 2006 Doha Asian Games. Since then, there has been no turning back. The country organised key events in many disciplines, including the AFC Asian Cup football, Arab Games and the IAAF Indoor Athletics World Championships. Now it is our turn to contribute to the country’s growing legacy in sports.

The UCI Road World Championships Doha 2016 is arguably the biggest international event in the last decade...

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.

Obviously, the 2016 UCI Road World Championships are a much bigger operation. But rest assured we are up to the challenge. We have exhaustively looked at every angle and we are very confident in our ability to put up a memorable tournament.

Which event are you looking forward to and why?

I am eagerly waiting the women’s and men’s Elite Road Races, on October 15 and October 16 respectively. We will have one of the best line-ups in history and I am sure it will be a fight to finish. Hopefully, these two races will give our competition a fitting farewell.

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.

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