Qatar (in some senses) is one of the most forward thinking nations in the world and is enjoying gargantuan growth at a time when economies in many other countries have been slowing down.
Saying that, it is fair to say nearly everybody with an ounce of footballing knowledge was shocked – and frankly appalled – by FIFA’s decision to hand it the 2022 FIFA World Cup last month.
While there are a number of negatives, I spoke to the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) last year to look at the positives and what the country has to offer the increasing number of premier sporting events that have come to the region in recent times.
Here Abdul-Rahman Al-Dosari, director of public relations and marketing at the QOC, explains the country’s strategy for attracting major sporting events and its benefits.
Simon Peach: What is Qatar’s bidding strategy when it comes to attracting sports events?
Abdul-Rahman Al-Dosari: “The role of sport in Qatar has changed enormously over the years. Today it is at the very heart of the life of the country and its people. Along with education and continued investment in the energy industries, the development of sports infrastructure and opportunities is one of the key policy strands introduced by The Emir, some 10 years ago.
“By paying attention to our sports, cultural and education facilities, Qatar is giving its international image an overhaul. Sport is also a way of reaching out to the world and the QOC is determined that Qatar should become universally recognised as the sports hub of the Middle East and a major destination for world-class events in all sports.
“The QOC believe that sport promotes friendship, unity and peace and is determined that Qatar should play its role in this process.”
SP: What is Qatar’s bidding and hosting strategy when it comes to sports events and what are the nation’s goals?
AA: “Evolving sensibly in tune with the fast-changing world is Qatar’s ultimate goal. By fully preserving, but modernising its traditions and ensuring a smooth transition between generations, Qatar hopes to do a fine balancing act. Qatari government has recognised the importance of sport in its overall development strategy for the country by the vital role it plays in the international recognition and unity among countries.
“Through sport, the QOC can tell the world of Qatar’s values because it shares the values of sport. It can achieve things that politics can never do and that is why the Olympic Games are the only place you will find 202 countries, side by side without dispute.
“Sport has brought much to Qatar. It has helped put the country on the map, providing a very positive introduction to Asia and the world in general. Internally, sport continues to draw people together and to create opportunities for the development of culture, health and education.”
SP: Why do you think Qatar is an attractive destination for sports events?
AA: “The visionary Emir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani has set the country on a monumental modernisation programme to become a role model for economic and social transformation in the region. The peaceful country of Qatar is an outward-looking country that embraces free speech and debate. Never more than a few hours flying time from the world’s major population centres, Qatar is fast becoming a global meeting place, welcoming major political and religious figures from a variety of different backgrounds and faiths.
“Qatar is quickly building a world-class knowledge economy focusing on education, sport, medicine, science and technology – all the while respecting the rich and vibrant history and culture, which can be traced back as far as 4000 BC. The 15th Asian Games in Doha was widely acknowledged to have been one of the most impressive multi-sports events to have ever been staged.
“As such, it is testament to the sporting revolution that is taking place across the Middle East. But hosting elite events is only one part of the Qatari sports strategy. Just as important is the country’s desire to encourage greater involvement with sport among its population.”
SP: Do you feel that the Middle East as a whole is now becoming a serious player in the sports hosting industry?
AA: “Qatar’s bid for 2022 FIFA World Cup had support from the Gulf Co-operation Council, which was solidifying the regional support from the neighbouring states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The main focus of the world is on the Middle East for hosting major international sporting events.”