Tour de Where? French organizers dismiss claim famous race coming to Thailand

Have you heard the one about the Tour de France breaking a century of tradition to move to Thailand next year? No, seriously.

A day after tourism authority headlines unequivocally asserted “Tour de France to be held in Thailand next year,” the race’s organizers were forced to publicly repudiate the claim.

“There are talks indeed but not to bring the Tour to Thailand,” a spokesman for the Amaury Sport Organisation responded to Reuters about the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s announcement.

Understandably tourism officials are desperate for some good news to buoy the kingdom’s wounded image, but the line between optimism and inventing something out of whole cloth really isn’t that fine.

“The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is in talks with Paris-based Amaury Sport Organisation 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,” read yesterday’s news release.

After saying yesterday he expects “Thailand to play the perfect host to this esteemed and prominent cycling race as early as in 2015,” authority Governor Thawatchai Arunyik walked the claim back in the Reuters report:

“We are still talking with Tour de France organisers but we are looking at next fiscal year. So 2016, not 2015,” he said. “We’re not sure yet how many stages we will hold whether it is one or two stages or the whole competition. This is something that still needs to be discussed.”

That’s not to say there wasn’t good news to crow about – the truth of the matter would still have been a welcome boost.

According to the Amaury Sport Organisation, Thailand is being considered for a “criterium,” which is a short race held some months after the Tour de France is finished. It often attracts some of the top-performing cyclists from the real thing but it not prized competitively.

The Tour de France, by definition, is held in France, though some starting stages have been held in neighboring countries.

Photo: Richard S. Marks

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