Health & Education

Stay The Course

Diversifying Sport

Everybody knows that Qatar has been awarded the right to organize the 2022 FIFA World Cup. However, the world might not be aware of the wide range of other sporting […]

Everybody knows that Qatar has been awarded the right to organize the 2022 FIFA World Cup. However, the world might not be aware of the wide range of other sporting events that Qatar is organizing outside of football. During the 2014-15 sports agenda alone, Qatar is organizing 42 international events, making it a true sports destination. This small Gulf country has invested in world-class sports facilities for over the last decade, suggesting that winning the World Cup bid did not happen out of the blue, but features more as the pinnacle of years of preparation and the building of experience in order to organize the world’s biggest sporting event.

Going back into the history of sports in Qatar, it might not come as a surprise that before the arrival of great wealth to this country activities were limited to nomadic traditions, such as horse riding, camel racing, and falconry. In its 20th Century march to mass popularity, football was the first Western sport to be embraced by the Qatari masses and led to the creation of an official national team in 1970. The fact that Qatar first competed at the Olympic Games of 1984 indicates that other global sports entered the country at a later stage. From that moment on, and with the continuous increase of expatriates, Qatar opened up and embraced virtually all sports.

In organizing international sports events Qatar has demonstrated a willingness right from the start when the country hosted the Asian Football Confederation Cup in 1988. This successful event inspired the nation to continue and open up Qatar for international sporting events. International sports federations were also interested in this new geography in which their activities could be spread. What followed in the 1990s was that Qatar convinced international sporting bodies, such as the ATP World Tour and the European Tour, to organize their annual golf and tennis competitions , in Doha. The fact that both these competitions are still on the international agenda today indicates that Qatar delivers on its promise of being a qualified host.

The growing popularity of sports in Qatar, and the growing international confidence in this small country to organize these events, peaked when Qatar was chosen to host the 2006 Asian Games. For two weeks, Doha was home to almost 10,000 athletes and coaches who participated in 424 competitions divided over 39 disciplines. The success of this continental event gave Qatar the belief to strive for the hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, for which it applied in early 2009.

The influence of sports on Qatar is massive considering that it only recently arrived to the country. It is truly visible in the Qatar National Vision 2030 that was presented by His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Tahni in 2008. In it, sports are identified as a vehicle to an increasingly healthy society. Born out of the national vision is the Sports Sector Strategy 2011-16. This sets out how Qatar is investing, through the Qatar Olympic Committee and its partner federations, to increase the supply of sport and recreation facilities to develop athletes, to host international competitions, and to raise awareness of the benefits of sports.

The spill over of this national commitment to the international sporting community seems now to be in full effect, and as Qatar can rely on very mild winter temperatures, it has found a niche position in the international agenda. Athletes and federations see Doha, with all its great facilities, as the ideal location to escape from the colder conditions elsewhere. The positive feedback and the wide range of famous endorsers of the country, such as Pep Guardiola, now allow Qatar to organize more and more world events.

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