No, the Tour de France is still NOT coming to Thailand!

Originally published at Siam Voices on November 25, 2014

The Tour de France, the world’s long-running, most prestigious (and somewhat plagued) cycling race, will start its 2016 edition from Manche in Normandy, France, with the rest of the route to be revealed on December 9. I might be going on a limb here, but I’m pretty sure that the last stage will be again on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Now, why would I write something like this on this blog here? Regular readers may remember this:

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is in talks with Paris-based Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) for the possibility of staging the world’s biggest cycling race, the Tour de France, in Thailand in 2015, the year when the entire Southeast Asian region will integrate under the ASEAN Economic Community framework. (…)

[TAT Governor Mr. Thawatchai Arunyik] added, “By playing host to a world famous cycling race as the Tour de France, we are saying that Thailand is ready to host any international sporting events of all types and sizes. (…)”

Tour de France to be held in Thailand next year“, TAT press release, October 2, 2014

The TAT jumped the starting gun on this one, issuing the press release after just one meeting with the Tour organizers (we reported). While it is nothing new for the first stage of the event to be held in countries other than France – there have been many starting locations, including this year in Utrecht, Netherlands – moving to an entirely different continent is quite a big stretch, which made the TAT announcement – which has vanished from its website – far more unbelievable.

Almost naturally – after a sufficient amount of buzz and ridicule – there was this unsurprising statement by the Tour de France organizers ASO:

ASO, however, believes something was lost in translation.

“There are talks indeed but not to bring the Tour to Thailand,” a spokesman told Reuters upon hearing about the claims from the TAT. “There are discussions to settle in Thailand via a criterium, just like we did in Japan with the ‘Saitama Criterium by Le Tour de France’.” A criterium is a one-day race held on a circuit or though a city which often attracts the Tour de France winner but has little sporting value.

Thailand off course on Tour hosting plans – ASO“, Reuters, October 2, 2014

It’s not the first time Thailand has attempted to attract a world-class sporting event, and its not the first time it has run into problems: the FIFA Futsal World Cup in 2012 became a fiasco when Bangkok failed to build the main arena in time, and an ambitious bid to host a Formula 1 race on the streets of Bangkok ultimately came to a screeching halt when the city rejected the inner-city circuit. Both incidents were examples of unhealthy, unrealistic ambitions and dodgy dealings by the Thai authorities – which would normally be perfectly acceptable in the world of sports.

It still doesn’t excuse the outlandish announcement by the TAT. The Ministry of Tourism and Sports (a very popular portfolio for would-be ministers for political and financial reasons), which the TAT is attached to, could for example attempt to better promote and support regional and local sporting events like the “Tour of Thailand” instead of thinking too big.

So, in case there are any doubts: NO, the Tour de France is still not coming to Thailand!

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