POSTED: April 2nd 2014

Doha: IOC Chief is Baching Qatar to the hilt!

IOC President Thomas Bach makes his first trip to the Middle East as leader of the Olympic Movement / Doha Stadium Plus
IOC President Thomas Bach makes his first trip to the Middle East as leader of the Olympic Movement / Doha Stadium Plus

N GANESH / Doha Stadium Plus

Sipping steam-hot gawa and casually biting into a date fruit, Thomas Bach appeared cool and relaxed. He had been to Qatar before, but the latest trip assumed more significance as it was his first visit to the Middle East as president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

He has been a strong supporter of Qatar, but the big question now is, will he use his clout to help the Gulf nation realise its long-cherished dream of hosting the Olympic Games?

Qatar had unsuccessfully bid twice before, for the 2016 and ’20 editions. For ’20, Olympic chiefs had given Doha the green light to bid by allowing a shift in dates to later in the year and avoid the extreme desert heat, but they still lost out early on.

With Tokyo winning the ’20 right, Qatar may have to wait longer if the IOC goes strict on rotation policy.

The German was noncommittal about the IOC’s chances of awarding Doha the right to host the Olympics.

“We’ll see what’s going to happen in the future,” Bach, who replaced Jacques Rogge last September, told reporters.

“For the time being, there’s no competition running for the Summer Games and the world’s attention is on the Football World Cup. But again, Qatar’s approach to sports, from the school level to elite, education and daily life of its people, is really impressive,” he said.

Asked whether Tokyo hosting the ’20 edition would delay Qatar’s chances, he said, “It’s too early to speculate what’ll happen with the bidding for ’24, ’28 or even ’32. You know in the Olympic world, you’ve to think long term. Therefore, let’s wait and see, now when the competition for the ’22 Winter Games is over, we’ll think about ’24,” said Bach, a gold medallist in fencing (foil) at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

He hailed the work being done by Qatar and its “holistic approach” to sports.

“It’s impressive to see how Qatar takes a holistic approach to the role of sports. Qatar is not only caring about big events, but building sports culture in their people right from childhood.

“They’re advising the parents on the advantages of sports and addressing children with the Schools Olympic Programme and many other initiatives. That means here in Qatar, you’ve really established a culture of sports, for the children, for the youth, the general population as well as for high-level athletes.

“I had been to this country before and I see a great change. What hasn’t been changed is the enthusiasm of the people working here, which you can feel.

“Qatar’s is definitely on the right track. Sports isn’t about playing alone. It’s also important for education, for the cohesion of the society, for the integration of all into the society. It’s also important for mutual understanding, not only within a community, but at the international level as well. In this respect, we can only congratulate the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) for the many initiatives and this really is great approach,” he said.

Bach reached Doha from Kuwait last Monday after attending the 63rd Executive Council meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees.

On Tuesday, he held a meeting with the heads of Qatar’s national federations and visited the Anti-Doping Lab of Qatar (ADLQ).

IOC Vice-President Nawal El Moutawakel, Qatar Olympic Committee Secretary General Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and ADLQ General Manager Dr Mohammed Al Sayrafi accompanied him.

Keywords · Qatar · Doha · IOC · Thomas Bach · Olympics

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