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Friday, October 26, 2007

Qatar Olympic Games Bid

In November and December 2006 Qatar heldQatar Supportors in the Asian Games Football Finals the Asian Olympic Games, which was widely acclaimed a success – although it did lead to gridlock on the roads in the build-up to the games, something residents will have to put up with again in the future.

Less than a year later, on 25th October 2007, Qatar launched their official bid for the Olympic Game on Doha’s Corniche.

They did so against a fanfare of fireworks, aerial acrobatics and jet-ski displays. It culminated in the new logo for the games being projected on a screen rising from the sea.

Still, Qatar have a tough battle ahead of them if they are going to win the Olympic Games. They’ll be going up against Tokyo, Chicago, Madrid, Rio De Janeiro, Azerbaijan and Prague.

They’ll also have to persuade the Olympic Committee that the Games can be held in Qatar’s ferocious heat. The Asian Games were sensibly held in the cool season, and while the Olympic Games don’t have to be held in August, even in September and early November the heat can still be fierce.

One trump card here may be Qatar's recent announcement that they are building an all-weather underground stadium, located close to Al Ahli Stadium. That’s not all the building that goes on – an minimum of 30,000 hotel rooms are needed for an Olympic bid, and to reach that number Doha has promised to build more than 20 new hotels. (According to local paper the Peninsula the number is even higher at between 30 and 50 hotels!)

To Qatar's advantage, apart from the heat, is its location. The Games are usually rotated between continents, and with Beijing getting it in 2008 and London in 2012, that would leave Chicago and Rio De Janeiro and Qatar as the two strongest contenders by location. What’s more, the Olympic Games have never gone to an Arabian country. Relatively moderate, and currently politically stable, Qatar would make an ideal Arabian choice.

Did we also mention they have wads of cash – and that they are not afraid to use it? Qatar would be happy to build anything that might increase their bids, and with tonnes of imported labour paid a fraction of wages in the West, they can do so cheaply.

Not that they need to do it cheaply – they are, after all, the third richest country in the world by GDP per person.

One disadvantage is one not even whispered in the papers here, and that’s the Jewish question.

Qatar is generally very good at remaining neutral (a handy talent in such a small country), and has maintained low key relationships with Israel. However, an Israeli team, let along Jewish athletes, coming to Qatar might well cause an outcry in neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia.

Such an outcry has been effective in the past. In 2000 Arab pressure forced the Qatar government to close an Israeli trade office, albeit temporarily.

Qatar will have to deal with this problem, and persuade the Olympic committee that it can do so successfully, before they have any chance of winning the Olympic Games.

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