BANGKOK/PARIS (Reuters) - Thailand boldly announced they were in talks to host the Tour de France on Thursday, much to the surprise of organizers of the world’s greatest cycle race who said they were only discussing staging a low key one-day in the Southeast Asian nation.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand said they had been buoyed by fruitful talks with Jean-Etienne Amaury, Chairman of the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) who organize the Tour de France, last month in Paris and were working on how much of the great race they would stage.
“We are still talking with Tour de France organizers but we are looking at next fiscal year. So 2016, not 2015,” TAT governor Thawatchai Arunyik told Reuters.
”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.
“Thailand is the perfect location for this highly prestigious competition, not to mention that cycling as a sport is enjoying enormous popularity here at the moment.”
ASO, however, believe 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.
The Tour, however, first held in 1903, is one of the most grueling sporting tests, with professional cyclists completing last year’s 3,663.5-kilometre race (2,276 miles) in 23 days.
The race takes place through France but last year’s 101st edition began in England and also went through Belgium with more countries keen to host stages.
Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Spain and Luxembourg have also hosted the start of the race in recent years before the riders make their way through France and finish at the traditional end point, the Champs Elysees in Paris.
Editing by Patrick Johnston