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Friday, June 06, 2008

Why did Qatar lose the Olympics?

I was a little surprised that Qatar fell out of the Olympics at the first hurdle. I didn't expect them to get the 2016 Olympics on their first attempt, but I did think they'd get further than they have.

Then today the Gulf Times had a front page article on the bid, entitled "IOC bends own rules to kill Doha bid."

The article pointed out that on technical points Doha finished ahead of Rio, yet the IOC chose to bump Doha out rather than Rio. Perhaps more interestingly, though, is that the IOC seems to have ruled Doha based on the choice of dates.

Apparently, the IOC prefers the games to be held between July 15th and August 31st to maximize television revenues. However, as the Gulf Times pointed out, this would rule the whole of this region out forever.

Certainly choosing a country based on the amount of TV revenue is a long way from the Olympic ideals which the games are supposed to be based on, although a lot closer to everyday reality!

However, Australia were allowed to hold the Games in the second half of September. Perhaps the real reason that Qatar has been kicked out early has more to do with local politics.

The Olympics would involve sending a team of athletes from a nearby country, a country regarded by locals (who include a number of Palestinians) as occupied Palestine. While Doha has been perhaps unique in the region in their readiness to engage with Israel - Israeli citizens can visit Qatar, study, take part in sports, trade and have taken part in the Interfaith dialogues that are held here - the issue may still have weighed heavily in the IOC's rejection of Qatar.

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