By Emily Goddard

Wilfried Lemke says Qatar is a model nation for school sport ©Getty ImagesMarch 24 - Wilfried Lemke, the United Nations secretary general's special adviser on sport for development and peace, has spoken out in praise of Qatar's contributions to the development of sport in the region.

Speaking during a visit to the country during its Schools Olympic Programme (SOP) at the Aspire Academy in Doha, the German paid tribute to the country's efforts to promote sport at the grassroots.

"Qatar is a model nation for other countries in the neighbourhood when it comes to encouraging sports at the schools level," Lemke said.

"I can relate to all this enthusiasm.

"Fifty years ago, I represented my school at the national schools athletics meet and my team were the champions in one of the relays.

"I was transported back to that moment when I was watching the kids in Qatar compete."

The 2014 Schools Olympic Programme took place at Doha's Aspire Academy ©AFP/Getty ImagesThe 2014 Schools Olympic Programme took place at Doha's Aspire Academy
©AFP/Getty Images

Lemke was also particularly pleased with Qatar's efforts in promoting sport among girls.

"You will often hear stories about girls being relegated to the background when it comes to sports and other activities in the region, but it is not so in Qatar," he explained.

"I was told more than 1,200 girls participated in this year's Schools Olympic Programme finals, which is simply great."

The 2014 SOP was the seventh edition of the initiative, which is run by the Qatar Olympic Committee and the Supreme Education Council.

More than 26,000 students from hundreds of schools competed in various sporting disciplines, including athletics, gymnastics, swimming, shooting and fencing, under the theme of "Sport and Integrity".

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