Carrying the vision of being the leading nation in bringing the world together via sustainable sport development, the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) has implemented several sporting programmes and initiatives in the country. Hosting world-class sporting events, QOC aspires to engage the youth in more sporting activities and spread awareness about the importance of sports. Building business opportunities, increasing employment and improving tourism while forging global friendships through sport is also what they aim to do.
Since its inception, QOC has developed a number of initiatives, the first being the Qatar Women’s Sport Committee (QWSC) launched in 2001, to advance the participation and performance of Qatari women in sports. A highlight was Qatar’s team of female athletes at the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Ahlam Salem, then President of QWSC, was awarded the IOC’s World Trophy at the IOC Women and Sports Awards for her contribution in sports administration and the development of women’s participation in sports.
The first academy of its kind in the MENA region, Qatar Olympic Academy (QOA) offers professional sports educational programmes. Founded in 2006, the academy signed an agreement with the Olympic Council of Asia to provide training for coaches, referees, specialists and technicians across Asia. Its goal is to become one of the leading academies for Olympic and sports education, both locally and internationally. QOA offers certificates and e-learning courses in the science of sports.
Increasing sports participation among the younger generation is an important step for Qatar’s sporting future and it does so with the School Olympic Program (SOP). The initiative was launched in 2007 after the success of the Asian Games in 2006, with over 7,000 participants. SOP has grown to become a landmark in sports development with nearly 26,500 students from over 450 schools taking part in 14 sports throughout the school year.
Celebrated every year on the second Tuesday of February is Qatar National Sport Day, a QOC initiative to get people from all age groups to engage in different sporting activities. First held in 2012, National Sport Day is an annual public holiday, and companies are encouraged to hold a day of sports and activities for employees and their families to get involved in.
Athlete Development Pathway is a robust framework that helps identify, develop and nurture talented artists at every stage of their career. It includes three sports-specific models that are tailored to bring forth optimum development with different disciplines and sports. This model, formed in 2016, was the output of a three-year project led by QOC in collaboration with Aspire Academy.
QOC established Shine as a legacy project after the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games. It was a partnership with the Qatar Athletics Federation, Aspire Academy, the Rio de Janeiro Athletics Federation Ten, and Futuro Olympico, an NGO founded by Arnaldo de Oliviera, Brazil’s Olympic bronze medallist from the Atlanta 1996 Summer Olympic Games. The project provided young, underprivileged athletes from Rio de Janeiro the opportunity to train at Qatar’s world-class facilities at Aspire Academy. The athletes were equipped with new training techniques and expertise to continue their training upon their return to Brazil.
QOC has successfully hosted numerous large-scale events. By raising the name of the country in these international tournaments, Qatar has opened up new opportunities in the world of sports.
• AFC Asian Cup 1988 A total of 10 countries participated with Qatar as host country narrowly missing out on progressing past the group stage.
• FIFA World Youth Championships 1995 Qatar arranged the championships in the shortest amount of time, with Nigeria officially withdrawing just 21 days before it was due to start.
• West Asian Games 2005 Doha hosted the third edition of the games with the participation of 13 countries. Qatar achieved a total of 67 medals – 28 gold, 19 silver and 20 bronze.
• Asian Games 2006 The 15th edition of the games featured 39 events and 46 disciplines. Doha was the first city in the region and the second one in West Asia to host the event, and it was also the first time the games were broadcast throughout Europe.
• IAAF World Indoor Championships 2010 Qatar’s hosting was deemed by the IAAF to be an exceptional event, to have surpassed the hugely successful organisation of the Asian Games in 2006.
• Arab Games 2011 The 12th Arab Games featured 29 sports, including 2 Paralympic sports, across 33 disciplines. Participating were 21 countries, 6,000 athletes and team officials, and 4,000 volunteers.
• AFC Asian Cup 2011 Qatar hosted the 15th edition – the host nation gave its all and competed until the quarterfinals.
• FINA World Swimming Championships 2015 (25m) The 12th FINA World Swimming Championship set 23 new records. Doha stood out as the first host to introduce a ‘Youth Program’ that brought together around 350 young swimmers and their coaches.
• AIBA World Boxing Championships 2015 The AIBA World Boxing Championship was held for the first time in the Middle East. Over 200 elite boxers competed, 23 of who qualified for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games.
• IHF World Men’s Handball Championships 2015 Qatar made history at the 24th World Men’s Handball Championships when it became the first non-European nation to make it to the finals. The event was also star-studded with performances by Kylie Minogue, Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani.
• IPC Athletics World Championships 2015 Qatar successfully hosted the largest parasport tournament in the Middle East with nearly 1,300 athletes from 90 countries. It played a major role in changing the world’s perception of Qatar, the Middle East, and of parasports.
• UCI Road World Championships 2016 Doha hosted cycling’s premier event for the first time in the Middle East. It featured 12 championship races for Elite Men and Women, Junior Men and Women and Under-23 Men, with around 1,000 racers from 75 countries participating. A global audience of 300 mn tuned in thanks to 500 media bodies broadcasting live from the event.
• IAAF Diamond League – ongoing The Doha Grand Prix was first held in 1997 with only men’s events; women’s disciplines were added the following year. It was promoted to Grand Prix II level just two years later, and in 2005 was one of five meetings granted Super Grand Prix status. By 2010 it had become the strongest international early season fixture, making it the ideal opening competition for the new Diamond League series. The first ever Diamond League meeting was held at Qatar Sports Club in 2010 on 14 May, just two months after Doha hosted the much-lauded IAAF World Indoor Championships. In 2019 the event was moved to Khalifa International Stadium.
Over the years, Qatar’s international reputation has led to awards for many of its achievements.
The Special Olympics Movement awarded the International Supreme Award in 2004 to the Amir and then President of QOC, HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. This important award is granted to those that positively contribute to the Special Olympics at an international level. In the same year, the International Sport Press Association awarded the AIPS Media Excellence Cup to Qatar for its media facilities.
Qatar received a further IOC accolade in 2011 for its commitment to the environment and sustainable technology. This special award is presented every two years to members of the Olympic Movement nominated by their respective National Olympic Committees.
In 2012, Qatar was awarded the Olympic Shield Award for its contribution to the ‘Giving is Winning’ campaign: sporting and clothing items were collected for refugees and displaced people at UNHCR camps across the world.
QOC was received two further accolades in 2013: the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award for hosting the 2011 Arab Games, and the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Sport Creativity Award for the Schools Olympic Program initiative.
The Future of Sport in Qatar
A new chapter in Qatar’s sporting journey was launched in October 2017. President of QOC HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani gathered with prolific Qatari sport stars to unveil a new Team Qatar website, the first-ever Team Qatar Club and redesigned Team Qatar social media channels.
HE Sheikh Joaan was joined by Team Qatar’s most successful athletes, including high jump World Champion Mutaz Barshim, Olympic showjumping finalist Sheikh Ali Al Thani, Paralympic silver medallist Abdulrahman Abdelqader, Asian shooting medallist Khulood Al Khalaf, and Qatar’s first female to compete in two Olympics, swimmer Nada Arakji.
The new strategy for sport in Qatar now incorporates the work of the national federations to ensure a unified approach – all with the aim of creating a more active society, improving sporting performance and being a leader in promoting and progressing the Olympic Movement.
Coming Soon to a Sports Stadium Near You…
QOC is set to host the 2019 World Championships in Athletics Doha 2019 starting 27 September, featuring a nighttime marathon, followed by the inaugural ANOC World Beach Games in October that will witness 1,360 of the world’s best athletes competing against each other on Qatar’s shores.
The country is also gearing up for FIBA Asia Cup 2021, the 2022 FIFA World CupTM and the 2023 FINA World Championship, paving the way for an even brighter future for Qatar in the world of sports.
For more information visit olympic.qa and follow their social media channels.
Authors: Ahona Saha and Sarah Palmer
This feature is from the ‘Special Features’ section in the latest issue of Marhaba – Issue 75, published in August 2019.
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