The billions of dollars invested in holding the Asian Games were never meant
to be offset by ticket sales, TV rights or tourism. The Doha backers believe it
has put this city on the map.
Once little more than a resting point for European trading
ships enroute to India, Doha is the first Arab city to host the quadrennial
And the Qatar Olympic Committee already has said the quadrennial event, the
biggest Asian Games on record, was a test run for its loftier target for another
one held every four years: the Summer Olympics.
Qatar is preparing a bid for the 2106 Olympics. If that fails, it has
promised to keep bidding until it wins.
"The returns of these games to Qatar are great, especially when it comes to
reputation," Ministry of Finance undersecretary Khalaf Ahmed Al Mannai told The
Associated Press. "This is in addition to direct return of having huge sports
facilities, infrastructure and roads.
"The Athletes Village will be turned into a medical city with hospitals and
laboratories," said Al Mannai. "These games were a great advertisement for us
without going to advertising companies. This is a major sports event and that
will add to Qatar's status."
Qatar spent US$2.8 billion (euro2.12 billion) on preparing venues, including
a major upgrade to the 50,000-seat Khalifa Stadium and the construction of the
Aspire indoor sports complex, the world's largest indoor multisports dome. It
also provided an Athletes Village with 11,535 beds.
New roads are planned to cut down on traffic congestion and dozens of new
high-rise hotels and office towers are being constructed as a thriving city
grows out of the desert.
"The money spent on such games cannot be returned financially whether by
selling tickets or hotel rooms but there is a major indirect income for such
games," said Ahmed Abdulla Al Khulaifi, deputy director general of the Doha
Ticket sales in the first week amounted to 17 million riyals (US$4.65
million, euro3.52 million), he said, "but 17 million compared with the total
cost is very small.
"The indirect income is huge ... if we take into consideration the media
(coverage) about Qatar."
The broader aim for this oil and gas-rich emirate is to become a finance and
sports capital of the region.
"The credit that Qatar could take about its ability to host such event is
invaluable," Al Khulaifi said of the Asian Games, which attracted more than
10,000 athletes in 39 sports.
When the International Olympic Committee opens its application process next
year for candidates to host the 2016 Games, Qatar will be among the first cities
Doha is expected to face strong competition from cities including Madrid,
Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro.
Asked if Qatar is capable of hosting the Olympics, Sheik Talal al-Fahd Al
Sabah, Olympic Council of Asia chief, said the current infrastructure for the
Asian Games is 90 percent of what is needed.
"If Qatar is serious about hosting the Olympics it should start working as of
now to chose the team that will spearhead its campaign," Al Sabah said.
Doha already has gained good kudos from IOC chief Jacques Rogge, who attended
the lavish December 1 opening ceremony and reportedly praised the facilities and
"He expressed his great happiness for the preparations he saw and the methods
followed by Qatar to develop sports, education and training in general," local
Qatar's determination to become a regional leader comes despite its delicate
position in the Middle East.
Home to the U.S. military's Mideast command post, Qatar is also is a member
of the Arab League, which sometimes leads to foreign affairs dilemmas such as
Washington's recent objection to the transfer of millions of dollars in aid from
Qatar to the Hamas-led Palestinian government.
With geography in mind, security was paramount for Qatar authorities who
pumped money and resources into protecting its image as a safe, conservative
"We have about 8,000 well-trained members (and) we also have the latest
technology that were used in the Olympics," said Lt. Col. Abdallah Al Baker, an
Internal Security Force spokesman.
Despite a small population _ about 750,000 including something like 60
percent foreigners, mostly from South Asia and the Philippines,oha has no
concerns about the scale and cost of hosting an Olympics and considers itself a
forerunner in the region.
Al Khulaifi, of the games organizing committee, said because of the games
Qatar is now ahead of regional states.
"Qatar's success in hosting the Asian Games gives it some kind of
international credibility that it is able to host any event whether sports,
economic or political. I don't think any country in the region has this credit,"
Al Khulaifi said.