Tom Degun: Qatar’s Olympic Master Plan

Friday, 16 November 2012
Tom Degun with itg tie onNearly six months have passed since the 2012 SportAccord Convention in Québec City.

It was a notable gathering for the most senior figures in the Olympic Movement for many reasons; not least for the way that it shaped the bid race for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

For the majority of the week, we had all been waiting for the announcement of the shortlist of bidders for the 2020 Games and it terms of drama, it didn't disappoint.

At a press conference attended by the five bidders – Baku, Doha, Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo – the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Director for the Olympic Games Gilbert Felli and communications director Mark Adams took to the stage.
 
Adams and Felli IOC Executive Director for the Olympic Games Gilbert Felli and communications director Mark Adams revealed in Québec City that Doha were out of the race for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics

After pleasantries, it was left to Adams to reveal that just Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo had made the shortlist in an announcement that caused an audible gasp around the room.

Perhaps the elimination of Baku from the IOC Executive Board wasn't a major surprise given that their bid was not recommended by the nameless Working Group that conducted a report into all five bidders.

But the elimination of Doha appeared to carry more sinister undertones.

In the months leading up to Québec City, the Qatari capital had been given assurances by the IOC Executive Board that they would be able to bid for an October Games – outside the traditional July/August window – in order to avoid the searing summer temperatures in the country that can reach over 50 degrees.

But having opened the door, why had the IOC suddenly slammed it shut?

The answer was clear only in the small print of the Working Group report on the Applicant City.

Essentially, Doha's bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics was ended after television executives objected to the dates proposed.

They warned the IOC that if it was moved from its traditional July/August date to October as the Qatari capital planned then it would "become a weekend Olympics".
 
At the time I wrote that the IOC Executive Board's decision was either brave or foolish and we would have to wait to find out.

Perhaps we are already getting our answer.

Madrid and Spain are currently in one of the worst economic crisis in their history which is putting question marks over whether they can actually afford stage the Games.

Japan have just back into recession in a move that certainly doesn't help Tokyo's bid while the problem of a potential Turkish bid for Euro 2020 simply won't go away for Istanbul.

Let us not forget that this has all happened after Rome pulled out of the race for the 2020 Games earlier this year because of the major economic crisis in Italy.

So it is perhaps fair to say that for the IOC Executive Board to drop the one of the world's richest countries who has one of the world's fastest growing economies seems a little unfair.

In Qatar though, you would not know any different.

My last week in the futuristic capital city Doha has been spent largely at the stunning Aspire Dome, which could almost host the Olympics on its own such are the number of truly world class facilities it possesses.
 
Aspire Sports Dome Doha Qatar1The fantastic Aspire Dome demonstrates Qatar’s ability to host major sporting events

From the beautiful, outdoor and indoor football pitches to the magnificent indoor athletics to the giant Khalfi Stadium, it is truly a sight to behold.

Standing in the middle of everything is The Torch Hotel, which is undoubtedly the finest establishment I have stayed in despite the fact that it took me hours to work out how to turn the lights off with the iPad that controls everything in the room.

The reason for my being in Qatar was the Aspire4Sport Conference and the wonderful October weather made the whole experience particularly nice.
 
The TorchThe Torch Hotel in Doha is a symbol of the modern Qatar


There were numerous interesting sessions at the conference, but for me, none were as interesting as the session featuring the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) general secretary Sheikh Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

While on stage, I asked Sheikh Saoud whether Qatar would come back to bid for the Games in 2024 and beyond.

I assumed he would still be bitter about the 2020 elimination but he was quite the opposite.

"That question was one that was asked straight after we were disqualified from the 2020 race," he responded politely to me.
 
Sheikh Saoud JPG JPGSheikh Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani has revealed Qatar’s ambitions to host the Olympics and Paralympics in the future

"But the Emir [the ruler of Qatar] made it clear that our objective is to stage the Games. So we will continue on that path and we will continue to bid. Every time we bid, we are listening and learning to see how we can make our bid stronger.

"Our 2020 bid was stronger than our 2016 bid because the IOC Executive Board accepted our plan to host the Games in the October window, which didn't happen the first time. We think our next bid will be even stronger because of what we have learnt from 2020 and we think that each time we bid, we can get closer.

"We think that if we can keep doing that, one day the dream will happen to host the Olympics in the Middle East."

At the same session, Sheikh Saoud unveiled the Qatar Sports Venue Master Plan (QSVMP), which seems designed almost solely for an Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Obviously it is not, but it will play a key part in bring major sporting events in Qatar in the near future.

Two years in the making, the plan audited 62 existing sports venues for usability and proposed 11 new ones, in addition to eight venues originally planned by the QOC.

The new venues planned are distributed over five zones around Lusail City, Qatar Foundation, Aspire Zone, Old Airport Area and Qatar University and they could directly help with Qatar's next Olympic and Paralympic bid.

"Our focus since the beginning of this project has been legacy and ensuring that we avoid white elephants," said Sheikh Saoud.

"We have watched countries build large venues and struggle later with what to do with them.

"So our team has worked backwards, thinking first about how these venues can be of use in the future before planning their use during major sporting events.

"Our ultimate goal is to host the Olympic Games and we feel this project will help us achieve that goal."

Qatar 2022-world-cup-stadiumQatar will be building stunning venues for the FIFA 2022 World Cup

We probably shouldn't feel too sorry for Qatar as we know for certain that major events coming their way include the FIFA 2022 World Cup.

And even though they will be back for the Olympics and Paralympics, there is no doubt that the 2020 race for the Games is far less exciting without Doha's involvement.

Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames
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