Qatar sets sights on Olympics
After a great success in hosting the 15th Asian Games, Qatar believes its bid for the 2016 Olympic Games is on the right track.
Qatar invested US$2.8 billion (Bt98.5 billion) in the infrastructure for the Asiad to showcase its ability to organise a mega sporting event.
At a recent press conference, Sheikh Ahmad al Fahad al Sabah, president of the Olympic Council of Asia, praised the gas-rich country for its splendid preparation for and hosting of the quadrennial sports festival.
"I'm impressed with Qatar, which possessed as good infrastructure as any previous host," he said. "They already have 80 per cent of what is required for the Olympics - the same as Seoul [the 1988 Games] and Beijing ."
Qatar has demonstrated its ability to host any international event, as when the World Weightlifting Championships took place in Doha.
"Hosting a successful Asian Games here is part of a strategy to bring the 2016 Olympic Games to the city," said Sheikh Saoud Bin Abdul-Rahman al-Thani, secretary-general of the Qatar National Olympic Committee.
"We already had a strategy to bid for the Olympics in January. We hosted the Asian Games, the West Asian Games and several major competitions. Gaining experience from hosting big tournaments will improve our prospect on bidding to host the Olympics," he added.
According to al-Thani, the QNOC has already received a letter from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) outlining the bidding agenda for the 2016 Olympics. The deadline has been extended by two months, so bids will be presented between January and September 2007.
However, Qatar is set to face stiff competition from possible rivals such as San Francisco, Madrid, Milan, New Delhi, Bangkok and Tokyo.
During his recent visit to the Main Media Centre in Doha, Kanokphan Jullakasem, governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, admitted that Qatar is one of the most successful Asian Games hosts, especially with regard to its Olympics-standard competing venues and facilities.
"Qatar made the 15th Asian Games a great success. Their infrastructure, and facilities including accommodations and competing venues, met international standards. I think if we could move all these competing venues to Thailand, we could effectively and efficiently host future major sporting events such as the Asian Games or even the Olympic Games," he said.
Sani Ali, correspondent of Singapore Press Holdings, also said that it's quite certain that Qatar can make it if the country wants to host the 2016 Olympic Games.
"Qatar is a rich country. They have already proved that they are capable of making a mega sporting event like the Asian Games a huge success. They can do anything because they are rich. With a large sum of money, I think it's not too difficult for Qatar to make their bids for the 2016 Olympic Games a success," Sani told The Nation.
"More than 12,000 athletes and officials and more than 100,000 volunteers helped make the Asian Games the best Games ever, while over 100 million hits were registered on the Doha Games website. I think this is proof that Qatar will achieve whatever they want to do because they have money. I'm convinced the country will become one of the strongest candidate cities to host the 2016 Olympic Games."
Despite being a tiny country with a population of about 750,000 - with about 60 per cent of those being foreigners, mostly from South Asia and the Philippines - Doha has no concerns about the scale and cost of hosting an Olympics and considers itself a forerunner in the region.
Ahmed Abdulla Al Khulaifi, director general of the Doha Asian Games, said because of the Games, Qatar is now ahead of regional states. "Qatar's success in hosting the Asian Games gives it some kind of international credibility that it is able to host any sporting event. I don't think any country in the region has this credit."