Qatar has confirmed an interest in bidding to host the 2032 Olympic Games, joining a race that potentially includes India, the Australian state of Queensland, Shanghai, and a joint bid by North and South Korea.
Qatar has written to the International Olympic Committee to be part of a phase of “continuous dialogue” about hosting a future Games, an early step towards a bid.
Qatar previously bid to host the 2016 and 2020 Olympics. If it won it would be the first Middle Eastern nation to host the Games.
The process to appoint a host for 2032 is at the earliest stages. Several countries and cities, including those mentioned above as well as Jakarta, the Spanish cities of Madrid and Valencia, Egypt and Germany, have been touted as being interested in hosting the Games.
Qatar has made heavy investments in sport in recent decades, including in sports infrastructure and hosting major events, most notably the Fifa World Cup in 2022. This has been part of wider investment to develop the country, diversify its economy and improve its standing on the global stage, under its National Vision 2030 plan.
Qatar Olympic Committee president Joaan bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani said of the Olympics bid: “Never before has an Olympic Games been held in the Middle East. The Olympic rings are a symbol of peace, unity and hope for people around the world, including the people of our region.
“Today’s announcement marks the beginning of a meaningful dialogue with the IOC’s Future Host Commission to explore our interest further and identify how the Olympic Games can support Qatar’s long-term development goals.”
He added: “For many years, sport has been a major contributor to our nation’s development. From athletics to cycling, gymnastics to football, tennis to volleyball, Qatar has earned the reputation of a world-class destination for major sporting events.
“It is this proven track-record and wealth of experience, along with our desire to use sport to promote peace and cultural exchange that will form the basis of our discussions with the Commission.”
IOC president Thomas Bach told Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sports: “We in the International Olympic Committee are happy with the huge interest in the 2032 Summer Olympics, 12 years before the launch of the games. We are in a great position…
“We made sure that our new approach to this kind of intentions works well. We launched a dialogue between the interested national Olympic committees and a special commission in the IOC. Naturally, we welcome Qatar to join this dialogue.”
Qatar has been criticised for some of its sports investments. There have been accusations of corruption and bribery surrounding the 2022 World Cup bid, and of poor treatment of workers on the stadium construction projects for the event.
When Doha hosted the World Athletics Championships last year, many events were poorly attended and athletes struggled with the heat. Weather conditions at Olympic Games are a hot topic – the organisers of the Tokyo Olympics have been forced to schedule events in the early morning and to relocate the marathon and race walking events to the cooler northern city of Sapporo.
A bid by Qatar also comes with considerable political risk for the IOC. The country has for several years been involved in a political rift with Saudi Arabia that has spilled over into sport. Elements within Saudi Arabia have undermined beIN Sports – one of Qatar’s most prominent overseas champion businesses – by transmitting a pirate signal of the pay-television broadcaster’s channels.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar are bidding against each other to host the Asian Football Confederation’s 2027 Cup, and the Asian Games in 2030.
Professor Simon Chadwick, a sports industry academic and commentator on the intersection of politics and sport, told Al Jazeera: “Qatar has been an important event destination for sports and this is very much bound up in country strategy…
“Having failed in 2020 to attract the Olympics, I think it was inevitable that sooner or later we’d get another bid coming along…
“You have to keep in mind Qatar will have the infrastructure in place and will be looking for a legacy from the hosting of the Fifa World Cup in 2022.”