By Faisal Abdulhameed al-Mudahka/ Editor-in-Chief
2006 was an epochal year for Qatar because it fast-tracked an aspirational nation’s march towards becoming a major player on the global sporting stage.
It was the year when Qatar became the first Arab country to host the prestigious Asian Games, which saw nearly 10,000 athletes from 45 countries take part in a two-week long festival of sports that kept the world spellbound.
The event was billed as the “Games of Your Life” and earned plaudits for the smooth and efficient manner in which it was conducted, so much so it was widely acknowledged as the best Asian Games in history.
But as the country moves on to bigger things – the FIFA World Cup in 2022 being an example and probably even the Olympics sometime in the future – it’s important not to forget that Qatar still has a major role to play in Asia as one of its leading sporting nations.
Another Asian Games bid was, therefore, not surprising. So here we are again, with Doha, the sport capital of Asia, the clear favourite in the bid to host the 2030 Asian Games when the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) picks the venue in Muscat next month.
A high-ranking OCA delegation arrived in Doha yesterday for a three-day assessment trip, during which they will tour the country and visit its state-of-the-art facilities.
But while 2006 was keenly fought because Qatar had to build many of the facilities from scratch, the 2030 bid has to be a cakewalk, for more reasons than one.
For starters, the required infrastructure to host the event is already in place thanks to the preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The visiting OCA delegation therefore would be hard-pressed to find anything to complain about.
Also, Qatar has tremendous experience that comes with organising major multi-sport competitions, not to mention other high-profile events every year like ATP and WTA tennis, European Tour golf, MotoGP and CHI Al Shaqab to name a few.
A year before the 2006 Asian Games, Qatar had organised the West Asian Games. In 2011, Qatar played host to football’s Asian Cup, a tournament they went on to win in 2019, beating teams like the UAE and Japan along the way. Qatar also hosted the Pan Arab Games in 2011.
It’s common knowledge that several countries that hosted mega events had to pay a heavy price as they suffered economically. Qatar faces no concerns on that front as its finances are in great shape, despite the ongoing illegal blockade.
While the coronavirus pandemic has shattered the world economy, Qatar has managed the crisis well and registered allround growth. We have seen governments squeeze their budgets just to host a sport event and in the process harm their people by diverting the much-needed fund to meet the people's basic needs.
Also, while many countries are struggling to contain the coronavirus outbreak, Qatar has more or less brought it under control. It’s no surprise that in a few days from now Qatar will be hosting the East Asian matches of the Asian Champions League, in which football teams from Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and Thailand will take part.
A little over a month ago, Qatar had hosted the West Asian leg in a bio-secure bubble, earning praise from the Asian Football Confederation. Thanks to Qatar’s initiative, the AFC Campions League which had looked like a lost cause because of the pandemic is now nearing completion.
On the safety and security front too, Qatar has no competition. For several years now Qatar has ranked as the safest Arab country and earlier this year it was ranked as number one in an index that tracks safety in 133 countries across the world.
Qatar stood at the top of the 2020 mid-year Numbeo crime index, making it the safest country in the world.
Doha is therefore a safe bet for the 2030 Asian Games. No other city can provide a more secure and compact event where athletes can reach any venue in less than 30 minutes.
If Doha gets to host the Asian Games in 2030, it would leave a tremendous legacy for the future generations to cherish.
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