ASO signs six-year deal with Muscat Municipality for Tour of Oman
Doubts over the hosting of Tour of Oman, one of Oman’s biggest annual sports event, were cleared on Monday after top officials from Muscat Municipality and Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) announced the signing of a six-year deal that will see the world-class race running in the sultanate.
Salim al Hasani, a senior Muscat Municipality official and a committee member of 2018 Tour of Oman edition, told Muscat Daily on Monday, “We have inked a deal with ASO to run the Tour of Oman from 2018-23. The Tour is a highly-popular event in Oman’s sports calendar.
“With the telecast coverage highlighting Oman’s tourism potential in 185 countries to millions of people and world-class riders coming to take part, it is only going to grow bigger and bigger in the years to come.”
In his exclusive remarks to Muscat Daily , Yann Le Moenner, the chief executive of ASO, said, “We are delighted to become the sole organiser of the race for the next six years. We aim to develop cycling as a sport in the sultanate through the Tour and as part of our endeavour to give back, we will begin with a pilot project to introduce the sport in two schools in Muscat this year.”
Le Moenner said, “We have published a book that will be distributed to schoolchildren. The book provides details about the Tour, cycling equipment, jerseys, teams, past winners and different stages. It will help the kids learn about the sport and enhance their interest.”
ASO had worked in close cooperation with Belgian cycling legend Eddy Merckx to organise Tour of Oman since its beginning in 2010 but they split last November. Le Moenner refused to comment on the reasons for the split but said that the Tour will be the basis for Oman to become a cycling-friendly destination. “We want people to visit Oman during this time of the year from Europe to enjoy cycling and we are working in this regard with Muscat Municipality. We have plans to build safe courses for riding and once they are established, I am hopeful that Oman could be a destination just not for golf but also for cycling,” said the Frenchman.
‘Tour expansion in the pipeline’
Hasani said that preliminary talks have been held with ASO on plans to take the Tour to other regions of the sultanate.
“We have started talks, though these are at preliminary stages, of moving the Tour out of Muscat. For the past eight years, the Tour has been held in and around Muscat, the farthest being Nizwa and Jebel Akhdar.
“We have initiated discussion of taking the whole six-day Tour to Salalah and Sohar. There is lots of logistics that needs to be arranged and the local municipality has to be geared up for it. I am certain that in the next few years, we may have a Tour in Salalah and Sohar as we have signed the deal with ASO for six years,” said Hasani.
Pierre Yves Thouault, race director of Tour of Oman, said, “It is a good idea to have the race in different regions as it would truly give the essence of Tour of Oman.
“We have no issues in organising it, only thing is there needs to be good roads. It is up to Muscat Municipality to tell us.”