Qatar Bids to Hold 2020 Summer Olympic Games In October

Avoiding the 104-degree summer heat would be "ideal" for athletes and spectators

By MICHAEL CASEY
|  Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012  |  Updated 7:36 AM EDT
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Qatar Bids to Hold 2020 Summer Olympics In October

AP

Qatar's Olympic Committee General Secretary and Doha 2020 Vice Chairman Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani speaks during a news conference in Doha.

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Qatar wants to hold the 2020 Olympics in the fall to avoid the Gulf state’s scorching summer heat.

Under Doha's bid plans disclosed Monday, the Olympics would be held from Oct. 2-18 and the Paralympics from Nov. 4-15.

The dates were disclosed as organizers released details of the bid file that was submitted last week to the International Olympic Committee. Doha is among five cities bidding for the 2020 Games.

In a related development, Qatar officials announced they plan to send female athletes to the Olympics for the first time, including a woman swimmer and woman sprinter for the London Games.

Doha, bidding for a second consecutive time, is hoping to bring the Olympics to the Middle East for the first time.

"There is no denying the honor of staging the greatest sport event on earth and being the focal point of the sporting world," said Sheik Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, the general secretary of the Qatar Olympic Committee and vice chairman of the 2020 bid.

"Our bid is all about legacy, for our nation, the region and the world," he added. "Doha is doing everything possible to deserve that honor. We have the determination and resources to meet every responsibility. What is more, the timing is perfect."

Doha is competing against Madrid, Tokyo, Istanbul and Baku, Azerbaijan.

After studying the bid files, the IOC executive board will decide in May whether to accept all five candidates or reduce the field. The full International Olympic Committee will select the 2020 host city in Buenos Aires in September 2013.

Doha failed to make the IOC shortlist for the 2016 Olympics because of concerns over the weather and moving the games outside the regular July-August dates. Its bid also suffered because so little of the sports facilities had been built and over its failure to consult with federations before submitting it.

However, the IOC agreed last year to Doha's request to bid for 2020 within a Sept. 20-Oct. 20 time frame, which would avoid the worst of the summer heat in Qatar, where temperatures can exceed 104 degrees.

Monday was the first time Doha confirmed the specific Oct. 2-18 dates.

The Doha bid committee said the dates would "ensure ideal conditions for athletes and spectators."

Holding the Olympics in October could pose conflicts with television and other sports, including European football and the NFL, which would be in full swing at the time. Al Thani dismissed such concerns, saying that eight years was plenty of time to adjust the sporting calendars.

It wouldn't be the first time the Olympics have been held later in the year.

The 1956 Melbourne Games were held from Nov. 22-Dec. 8; the 1964 Tokyo Olympics from Oct. 10-24; the 1968 Mexico City Games from Oct. 12-27; the 1988 Seoul Olympics from Sept. 19-Oct. 2; and the 2000 Sydney Games from Sept. 15-Oct. 1.

Qatar has already won the right to host the 2022 World Cup. The event will be held in June, and the desert country has proposed air-conditioned stadiums to beat the heat. Concerns over the weather, however, have prompted several top footballers to call for the 2022 World Cup be moved to winter.

Qatar has discussed holding the Olympic marathon events in the early morning or late in the day when temperatures are cooler. It also has submitted a file to the IOC that includes temperature data and competition schedules.

Al Thani said "most" of the 28 summer sports federations have agreed on the dates.

Qatar also is framing its bid as a chance to bring the Olympics to a new region. It also has promised the games would be a boost to women's sports, using the event on Monday to announce that it will use IOC wild card invitations to send swimmer Nada Arkaji and sprinter Noor al-Malki to the London Games. Two other women athletes could also be added to the list.

Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Brunei have never sent women athletes to an Olympics.

"Sport has changed my life and I know that if the games were to come here, many more young lives would be changed for the better," Arkaji said. "To swim at Doha 2020, here in Qatar in front of my own supporters, would be special beyond words. Not just for me, but for every aspiring young girl and boy who wants to take up sport in the Middle East."

Qatar, which has budgeted $73 million for Doha's bid, is flush with cash from its vast oil and gas reserves, which gives it a clear economic advantage over the likes of rivals Madrid and Tokyo, which have been hit hard by the global economic crisis. Rome pulled out of the bidding last week when the government refused to provide financial guarantees.

Qatar, much like the United Arab Emirates, has used sports as a vehicle to showcase its global aspirations. Doha hosted major sporting events like the Asian Games in 2006 and annual tennis tournaments featuring many of the world's top-ranked players. In 2011, the capital hosted the Asian Cup football tournament in January and the opening Diamond League track meet in May, as well as major tennis and golf tournaments.

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