Cycling

Exclusive Interview with HH Shaikh Nasser – Turning Dreams Into Reality

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HH Sheikh Nasser with Vincenzo Nibali

An interview with HH Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa on the realisation of his vision of creating a Pro Cycling Team that will carry Bahrain’s name all over the world and will help shape the
future of sports in the country.

Creating a team of the best professional cyclist in the world started as an idea and a dream. Sheikh Nasser shares his vision for the team and Bahrain.

Can you please give a brief background on how the idea of creating the Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling came about? What is your inspiration behind this idea?

I love sports and I have been a sportsman at a very young age. I enjoy endurance sports in particular like endurance horse riding and have been a fan of endurance cycling as well. Following the World Tour is one of my favorite things to do. Being one of Vincenzo Nibali’s fans, when I came to learn that he was participating in Dubai Tour I invited him to visit Bahrain and have a casual ride together. We had a great conversation on cycling and of his many achievements in sports. That’s when the idea of creating a cycling team started.

All of the sporting activities that myself and my brother HH Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa do is always in support of the national vision to promote sports and create a healthy lifestyle.

My main goal in sports is for Bahrain as a country to be recognised around the world in sporting activities, to place my country in the sporting map, for Bahraini youth to be in the limelight in future and hopefully to encourage the youth and local community through sports to live a healthy lifestyle. Cycling is just one of the many sports I would like to introduce to Bahrain.

Among the many other sports that you support, what made you decide to put the spotlight on cycling this time around?

Aside from endurance horse riding, I have been focusing on triathlon lately which raised my passion in cycling. From having triathlon in the country and with the growing community of triathletes, the next best sport to bring to the country is cycling. Everyone can cycle; it is a fantastic sporting activity that the whole family and community can enjoy.

Formula One has been a great platform for Bahrain in placing the country’s name in the international sporting arena. However, it provides massive publicity only for the weekend during the three days racing period. Cycling will be another platform that will generate a much wider publicity as it encompasses 200 days of racing which will create a lasting image for Bahrain. After the Olympic Games and Football World Cup, the Tour de France is the third biggest sporting event in the world. All the stakeholders who have invested into the team will absolutely get massive international exposure of their brands throughout the year. This will also highlight Bahrain’s name in the world.

How big of a role in your overall sports portfolio would this team play? What do you envision to be the future of this team and its role in the local and global cycling arena?

I envision the Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team to provide a source of inspiration to the Bahraini people and help encourage the community to be active in sports and start living a healthy lifestyle. The team being the first in the Middle East to be granted a UCI license for two years will be the sporting ambassador of Bahrain and the Middle East in the international cycling arena, and hopefully one day to win the Grand Tour.

The team has set plans in developing local athletes to have a Bahraini rider on the team in the near future.

Cycling is the one of the most watched sports that is broadcast live on television all over the world. Representing Bahrain in a global sporting event will surely place the country in the minds of all the people.

It is my dream to have Bahrainis in the team in future; racing for Bahrain and winning the world’s most famous cycling races like the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and so on.

Do you see any specific impact of this initiative in areas such as tourism, culture, the economy or others? What do you see as its value to the promotion of the Bahraini culture?

All of the sports activities that we do are raising the profile to generate awareness in sports, showcasing where Bahrain is and what the country can offer. Bahrain is such a small country and many people around the world are not aware where it is located. To be able to promote tourism in Bahrain, there are a myriad of things to consider. Among them is educating the world about Bahrain; its location, our people, our culture and what we can offer.

Creating a team bearing Bahrain’s name is one way of raising awareness about Bahrain in the international community and inspire people’s curiosity about the country. The team is working together with the Bahrain Tourism Authority in partnering with various activities and ways that will promote tourism in the country.

We plan to organise cycling activities in future that the local community and athletes around the world can participate. Such events will bring visitors to Bahrain that will boost tourism and increase the country’s economy.

The aim in promoting sports to the Bahraini community is to create a culture of camaraderie, sportsmanship and a healthy lifestyle. I would love to see this vision in full bloom soon.

Can you share with us the selection process and criteria for being a member of the first-ever Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team?

Behind Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team is a group of experienced professionals and seasoned cyclists like Milan Erzen, Brent Copeland and Alex Carera. I trust their expertise in selecting the best cyclists for the team.

In the future, many Bahrainis might also be inspired to join the team, what tips can you give the aspirants so they can also be part of this team?

It is my dream to have Bahrainis in the team in future; racing for Bahrain and winning the world’s most famous cycling races like the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and so on.

For all the Bahrainis who wish to be part of the team, the first thing to do is to get on your bike, start cycling, live a healthy lifestyle, follow the team and enjoy cycling. This will hopefully deepen your passion in cycling. If your interest and passion in cycling is there, everything else will follow. The team will be conducting several activities next year, be a part of it and we are certainly looking forward to meet cycling enthusiasts who can be developed as a future endurance cyclist.

Learning how to ride the bicycle has always been used as a metaphor for explaining life and its challenges, what can you say about this sport, why you support it, and why should others take it on?

Cycling is indeed a good metaphor for life and overcoming its challenges. One needs good balance to cycle just like in life. Adding healthy lifestyle, enjoying sports that you love will certainly give a better work and life balance to people.

I personally love cycling. Other than a sport, it is an activity that everyone can learn easily and enjoy. In the beginning it is a bit difficult to learn how to balance and cycle, but once you’re on the bike, it gives a feeling of accomplishment and freedom for an adventure. Cycling has a lot of benefits to offer to everyone whether you are trying to lose weight, recovering from injury, trying to get on a meditative state, or aiming to be happy.

I encourage everyone to get on a bike and cycle even if they are not looking to be an athlete. It will change their life and how they see things. It is a good way of keeping fit without going to the gym.

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