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Staff left unpaid following last year’s Qatar World Championships

Future of racing in the desert state disappears into the sand

Joseph Delves
30 May 2017

For a country with little local cycling culture the choice of Qatar to host the world’s most prestigious one-day race raised a few eyebrows. Now six months after the event in excess of 100 staff remain unpaid. The local organising committee who hosted the race on behalf of the UCI has apologised, but has yet failed to produce payment according to the Doha News.

It’s the latest in a series of setbacks for a country that had made a concerted effort to bring cycle racing to the region.

Last year the country's national tour, the early season Tour of Qatar also folded, citing lack of available sponsorship.

Having been endorsed by Eddy Merckx, who worked with the UCI and lobbied on behalf of the race, the event ran continuously from 2002 and encompassed 15 editions.

Despite a big budget to attract a packed field of sprinters, the pan flat desert courses and frequent sand storms inspired little affection amongst fans.

Now the likelihood of top flight professional racing returning the country in the near future now seems remote.

Not that pro racing ever seemed anything other than a slightly odd fit for the desert state, where summer temperatures regularly exceed 40°c.

In recent years Qatar has won the rights to host a string of high profile sports events, sometimes with controversial results.

When the country was awarded the 2022 FIFA football World Cup it sparked an FBI investigation into the bidding process, which eventually led to the FIFA president Sepp Blatter being banned from football for eight years.

Similarly many commentators questioned the process by which Qatar came to be chosen by the UCI as the venue for the World Championships.

Decided under the tenureship of Pat McQuaid, who was repeatedly investigated on allegations of corruption relating to his time at the organisation, the choice of a country with few cycling fans and poor human rights record gained little support outside of the UCI.

With the men’s and women’s road races won by Peter Sagan and Amalie Dideriksen, respectively, the event passed off relatively successfully.

However, riders complained about the lack of fans at the roadside along with the nature of the course provided.

This year the World Championship will be hosted by Bergen, Norway and the 2019 edition will be hosted by Yorkshire.