Doha and Riyadh face off for hosting rights to 2030 Asian Games

Fireworks at closing ceremony of 2018 Asian Games at the GBK Main Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia (by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has today (Thursday) announced that Doha and Riyadh will contest the hosting rights for the 2030 Asian Games, setting up another battleground in the ongoing enmity between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Doha, capital of Qatar, and Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia, submitted official bids to host the 21st Asian Games before the OCA’s April 22 deadline. The bid document from the National Olympic Committee of each country was accompanied by letters of support from the city and respective governments.

Doha hosted the 15th Asian Games in December 2006 but Saudi Arabia has never organised an OCA multi-sport event.

President of the Olympic Council of Asia, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, said: “The OCA is delighted to receive two strong bids for our Asian Games in 2030. It shows the trust and confidence in the Olympic Movement in Asia and further enhances our reputation of hosting world-class sporting events on a major scale.”

The 19th Asian Games will take place in Hangzhou, China in 2022 and the 20th Asian Games will be in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan in 2026. The OCA sent a circular to all 45 National Olympic Committees on January 23, inviting bids for the 2030 Asian Games.

In December, Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino had said the country would be bidding to host the Games. In September, the OCA awarded the fourth edition of its Asian Youth Games in 2025 to Tashkent, with the capital of Uzbekistan, along with Doha, at the time expected to enter bids for the 2030 Asian Games.

As far back as June 2018, India had confirmed plans to submit a bid for the 2032 edition of the summer Olympic Games, as well as the 2030 Asian Games, while the likes of South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan had also been linked with bids for the latter event.

However, it has now been confirmed that Qatar and Saudi Arabia will face off for the hosting rights, continuing a tense relationship between the two nations that has transferred into the sporting sphere.

The latest example of this came earlier this week, as Yousef al-Obaidly, chief executive of Qatar-based pay-television broadcaster beIN Media Group, wrote to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters and the chairmen of the respective clubs, urging the league to consider blocking the proposed takeover of Newcastle United by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

The election of the host city for the 2030 Asian Games will be held at the OCA General Assembly on November 29, on the sidelines of the Asian Beach Games in Sanya, China. “With these two bids for the 2030 Asian Games we now have stability and continuity in our sports movement for the next decade,” Sheikh Ahmad added.

“This will allow our National Olympic Committees, our administrators and, above all, our athletes to make solid plans for the future in the short term, medium term and long term. It puts us in an envious position in terms of our sports calendar and highlights again that Asia is a major partner in the global Olympic movement.”