Berdymukhamedov given international cycling body’s highest award

UCI head David Lappartient holds up the award certificate during a video call with Berdymukhamedov. Still image from Turkmen state TV channel Altyn Asyr

Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has been given what Turkmen media are calling the world governing body for sports cycling UCI’s highest award for “inestimable support to the development of cycling throughout the world”. UCI head David Lappartient presented Berdymukhamedov with the award via a video call shown on Turkmen state TV station Altyn Asyr (in Turkmen).

The award was presented to him on the occasion of the UN’s World Bicycle Day (3 June), celebrations for which were not cancelled in Turkmenistan in spite of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lappartient emphasised that this award has not been conferred on anyone since 2007, state news agency TDH writes. Fergana has been unable to verify this, or the claim that the award is the governing body’s highest. The only source of information on the award is currently Turkmen state media, though the man dubbed on Turkmen TV is clearly David Lappartient. The certificate he holds up thanks Berdymukhamedov “for his invaluable contribution to the development of sport and the Olympic movement in Turkmenistan as well as his inestimable support to the development of cycling throughout the world”. (Note: Since this report was written, the UCI has replied to confirm that the award presented to Berdymukhamedov is the «UCI Order», «the highest distinction bestowed by our Federation to eminent people, usually working in high positions in political or cultural fields, in recognition of their commitment to our sport».)

During the video call, the UCI head expressed his gratitude to the Turkmen leader for the assistance he has provided to cycling’s governing body, in particular by offering to stage the 2021 Track Cycling World Championships. Berdymukhamedov thanked Lappartient and assured him that the event will make a significant contribution to the development of the sport.

Cycling is known to be one of Berdymukhamedov’s favourite hobbies. State media in Turkmenistan regularly reports on his participation in bike rides and races, as well as motor races and his love of horses.

On the morning of 3 June, the Turkmen president unveiled a new monument entitled “Bicycle” in the foothills of the Köpet Dag mountains south of Ashgabat and fired the starting signal for a number of sporting events to mark the occasion. Among the participants in the celebrations were members of the Turkmen government, parliamentary deputies, a number of heads of diplomatic missions and representatives of international organisations accredited in Turkmenistan, employees of state agencies and the media, university students and residents of the capital. A 12-kilometre bicycle race was held, finishing in the city centre at the State Tribune.

Berdymukhamedov arrives to open the impressive «Bicycle» monument. Video from state TV channel Altyn Asyr

David Lappartient is a French Republican politician. He has been president of the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale, International Cycling Union) since 2017, having previously served as head of the French Cycling Federation and the European Cycling Union.