Yes, it’s a cycling blog and not a moralistic take on the politics of various countries around the world.
Still, the United Arab Emirates does sponsor a WorldTour cycling team and therein lies the ugly crossover effect. We always find it just a little disturbing when sports is paid for by repressive regimes.
The UAE signed top sprinter Alexander Kristoff for this season. He’s excited to get his campaign started and take on the likes of Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish, John Degenkolb and Elia Viviani at the Dubai Tour, which begins February 6th.
It was a largely innocuous quote from Kistoff in a team UAE press release that immediately irritated us. “This will be my first time racing in the Dubai Tour. I really like the idea, because when I went to the United Arab Emirates for holidays I discovered that it’s a wonderful place,” said Kristoff.
Here’s just a quick wikipedia run-down on what a wonderful place it really it. This is straight from the main wiki page.
“Flogging and stoning are legal punishments in the UAE. The annual Freedom House report on Freedom in the World has listed the United Arab Emirates as “Not Free” every year since 1999, the first year for which records are available on their website.”
“Since 2011, the UAE government has increasingly carried out forced disappearances. Many foreign nationals and Emirati citizens have been arrested and abducted by the state. According to Human Rights Watch, the reports of forced disappearance and torture in the UAE are of grave concern.”
“Kissing in public is illegal and can result in deportation. Expats in Dubai have been deported for kissing in public. In Abu Dhabi, people have been sentenced to 80 lashes for kissing in public.”
“The UAE is frequently described as an “autocracy”.According to the New York Times, the UAE is “an autocracy with the sheen of a progressive, modern state”. The UAE ranks poorly in freedom indices measuring civil liberties and political rights.”
Pro cycling is a sport so desperate for sponsors that if North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un showed up at UCI headquarters with a ton of cash, he could have his own WorldTour squad, too. It ain’t pretty. It’s a failed financial model.
The United Arab Emirates may be wonderful if you’re a well-paid pro athlete just dropping in for a week of sun by the pool at the five star hotel. But Alexander, let’s not get crazy with this “wonderful place” business.