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A day after the Rwanda Cycling Federation announced the news in a tweet it then deleted, the UCI confirmed on Friday that the 2025 Road World Championships will be held in Rwanda. Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, will host the event, marking the first time that an African country will host Road Worlds.
The news is not unexpected.
The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, was in Flanders this week to meet with UCI President David Lappartient and Director General Amina Lanaya. The three met Thursday morning, shortly before the Tweet was sent out, and the news was officially announced on Friday. The East African nation had made its hosting intentions known before.
Both Rwanda and Morocco had put in bids to host the 2025 worlds.
The location presents both opportunity and cause for concern. Rwanda loves its cycling and is the host of one of the largest and most prestigious road events on the African continent, the Tour of Rwanda. It is a hub of cycling passion in East Africa and would present an opportunity to bring Road Worlds outside its traditional European confines. The terrain is tough and local support would be phenomenal.
Yet there are serious concerns about the country’s government and potential sportswashing. Kagame has been in power in some form or another since 1994, becoming president in 2000. According to human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch, elections are largely staged, dissent is quashed, and there have been more than a dozen alleged assassinations of Rwandan dissidents at home and abroad since 1995. This year, Paul Rusesabagina, inspiration for the movie Hotel Rwanda, was sentenced to 25 years in jail on terrorism charges that have been deemed questionable by international observers. More than 30 U.S. Senators have called upon Kagame for Rusesabagina’s release.
The UCI has historically shown few qualms in handing major events to questionable governments, most recently with world championships awarded (and then removed) from Belarus and Turkmeninstan.