KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad today expressed hope for the glory days of the annual cycling event, the Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL), which kicks off tomorrow.
Mahathir said he has seen and met many people who had fond memories of the race.
“They waited in the blazing sun just to catch a glimpse of the riders, and cheered for the local teams.
“People were excited about the LTdL, about what it means to Malaysia, which goes beyond the race.
“It is a testimony as to how Malaysia as a country can deliver an event of international standing.
“We were eager to show Malaysian hospitality and its colourful cultures,” he said in his speech at a team presentation ceremony at the Esplanade, KLCC Park, here tonight.
A total of 132 riders from 22 teams are participating in the 24th edition of the race.
Also present at the ceremony were Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, LTdL CEO Ahmad Mustafa, and Petronas president and CEO Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin.
Mahathir, who is also Langkawi MP, said when the idea of LTdL was mooted back in 1993, he saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.
One, he said, was to showcase the beauty and uniqueness of Malaysia and Langkawi to the world. Secondly, he wanted Langkawi to become the hub for sports tourism.
“Today, that hope, dream and ambition is a reality. This year alone, Langkawi is host to numerous international sporting events — rugby, sailing, beach volleyball, dragon boat race, tennis and marathons — to name just a few.
“And these are annual events that have been coming back to Langkawi for many years, bringing with them not only competitors but spectators — all of whom would be tourists in the end,” he said.
Mahathir said this has in turn contributed positively to the local economic development of Langkawi and Malaysia in general.
“On that note, I am pleased to know that Langkawi will be the host for two LTdL 2019 stages, the penultimate challenge on April 12 and the finale on April 13.
“Though two days are insufficient to showcase the beauty of the island, it is nevertheless a golden opportunity for Langkawi to be in the limelight, after a few years of being excluded from the race route,” he said.
The Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman said LTdL, which carries the theme “Sports Unites, Cycling Contributes”, is much more than just a race, but also a platform for Malaysians to be united in their ride together as a nation.
“We put aside our differences, be it in ideology, background or ethnicity. We must be united if we want to bring the country to the next level.
“Through sports that spurs passion and excitement, unity can certainly be pursued and promoted,” he added.