By Duncan Mackay

Doha 2020_hand_in_application_file_Lausanne_February_13_2012February 13 - Doha's bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics has promised to increase the opportunities offered to girls and women in the Middle East, according to the Applicant City file, which was officially handed in today.

The Doha delegation, which was led by by Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, the general secretary of the Qatar Olympic Committee and Doha 2020 vice-chairman, handed in their document at the International Olympic Committee's headquarters, which contained the promise to help develop women's sport in the Middle East.

The pledge comes despite the fact that Qatar, who made their Olympic debut at Los Angeles in 1984, are one of only three countries, long with Saudi Arabia and Brunei, never to have sent a female athlete to the Olympics.

"It is a proud moment to be delivering the Doha 2020 Applicant File to the IOC Headquarters here in Lausanne," said Sheikh Saoud. 

"A huge amount of work has gone into its production and I believe its contents are very strong. 

"We look forward to making its contents public soon and continuing to build on our campaign to bring the Olympic and Paralympic Games to the Middle East for the first time.

"Our Applicant File contains a strong hosting plan that is based on many existing venues and a number of planned facilities. 

"It also outlines an exciting legacy vision focused on building opportunities for Olympic sports in the region and growing participation across the Middle East – especially among girls and women. 

"2020 is a historic opportunity to grow the Olympic Movement in a new region and our Applicant File is a crucial step in our ambition to turn this opportunity into reality."

In July 2010 Qatar promised that they would send a small contingent of women to compete at London 2012, providing they reached the qualifying standards. 

The shining moment for Qatar's female athletes so far came at the inaugural Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, where two qualified to compete.

The Doha bid is also being led by a woman, Noora Al Mannai, the chief executive. 

Doha 2020_outside_Lausanne_HQ_February_13_2012
Among the delegation that travelled to Lausanne was Nada Arkaji (pictured above second left), a swimmer who represented Qatar in the 2011 Arab Games held in the Qatari capital.

"It is a great honour to be travelling to the International Olympic Committee as part of the Doha 2020 delegation at such an exciting time for sports in the Middle East," she said.  

"I competed at the 2011 Arab Games hosted in Doha and that was a wonderful experience to compete in front of my home fans.

"Sport has changed my life and I know that if the Olympic and Paralympic Games were to come here, to a region that has never had the honour of hosting the world's greatest sporting event, many more young lives across the Arab World would be changed for the better."

The IOC are due to announce which cities have been shortlisted for Candidate City status at its Executive Board meeting in Quebec City on May 23.

Tokyo have also handed in their Applicant City file while Baku, Istanbul and Madrid are set to follow before the deadline on Wednesday (February 15).

They could be joined by Rome if Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti agrees to give the necessary Government guarantees in time.

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