Qatar to unite the world with bid

Qatar's Olympic bid comes with lofty ideals and grand promises.

    Qatar's ruling family spared no expense in hosting
    the 2006 Asian Games [GALLO/GETTY]
    Qatar hopes lavish facilities and a groundswell of support from the Muslim world will earn the Gulf state the chance to host the 2016 Olympics.

    Bid chairman Hassan Ali bin Ali has declared that Doha's Olympic bid aims to raise the profile of the Arab world and is backed by billions of dollars and state-of-the-art venues.

    "It's unique, it's the first in the history of the region, and we have big support," he said.

    "Our strength is our venues, 75 percent are already constructed and the costs of staging the games have been guaranteed."

    Qatar spent $2.8 billion on new stadiums and facilities for the 2006 Asian Games, which was regarded as one of the most successful in the event’s history.

    The Gulf state, which sits on the world's third-largest gas reserves and has one of the world's fastest growing economies, will undoubtedly use their enormous wealth to drive their campaign.

    Bin Ali said Arab countries in Africa and the Middle East had signed a communique to back Doha's bid, which would see the Games held in October that year to avoid soaring temperatures.

    The International Olympic Committee will next month decide which candidate cities are most suitable to host the Games.

    Chicago (U.S.), Prague (Czech Republic), Baku (Azerbaijan), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Tokyo (Japan) and Madrid (Spain), which bid for the 2012 Games, are the other cities in the race.

    A bid with a vision and lofty goals

    "We respect the other host cities, they are strong bids, but we are different. We have a vision of creating dialogue, understanding and hope," bin Ali said.

    "We want to break down the barriers, we believe we can achieve that."

    Bin Ali believed an Olympics in Qatar would be more than a sporting event, it would contribute to Middle East peace efforts and help change Western perceptions about the Arab world.

    "Everyone will have to mix with Arab athletes, Israel will come to an Olympic Games in an Arab country, this will create dialogue," he said.

    "Perceptions of fundamentalism and fanatics give a bad picture of us. When people come to our country they will see something totally different .... they will see the heart of the Arab world."

    Bin Ali said the costs of staging the Games had been "personally guaranteed" by Qatar's Emir, Sheikh Hamed bin Khalifa al-Thani, and Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

    In an extraordinary gesture, if Doha wins, the ruling family has said they would give 100,000 teenagers from across the world an all-expenses-paid trip to see the Games.

    Despite the success of the 2006 Asian Games, highlighted by a spectacular multi-million dollar opening ceremony, the event received a lukewarm response from an apathetic domestic population, with the biggest crowds comprised mostly of foreign workers who were bused in to fill, or partially fill, stadiums.

    One problem it faces is a tiny population, less than 841,000 people live in Qatar, more than half of whom are migrant workers from South Asia and the Philippines.

    Similar concerns have already been cited before the country hosts football's Asian Cup in 2011.

    However, bin Ali said Qatar's population would swell to as much as 3 million by 2016 and people from neighbouring Gulf states would flock to see the Games.

    "The Olympics is the greatest show on Earth, everyone will want to watch it," he said.

    "It's an opportunity for us to unite the whole region together. We are very happy with the bid."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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