2006 Asiad a milestone event for Qatar, says Sheikh Saoud
The country’s journey towards becoming the region’s sports capital began with the continental extravaganza.
Over the last decade and a half, Qatar has hosted several international competitions, each bigger than the previous one. While the latest was the IAAF World Championships, the next, in 2022, will be the FIFA World Cup.
Looking back, one can see that Qatar’s journey to being the region’s sports capital began with a single multi-sport event — the 2006 Doha Asian Games.
The Education and Olympic Movement Development Seminar, organised by the Qatar Olympic Academy on the sidelines of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) World Beach Games at the Al Gharafa Sports Club on Monday, was a perfect occasion to recall that journey.
Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, the former Secretary-General of the Qatar Olympic Committee, said the nation had gained two types of legacies from hosting the quadrennial event.
“The hard legacy of the 2006 Asian Games was the construction of several world-class stadiums, which we’ve used for several events since then. The soft legacy was the development of our people and building their expertise to host future mega events. We’re still reaping the benefits,” said Sheikh Saoud.
James Macleod, the International Olympic Committee’s Director of NOC Relations Department and Olympic Solidarity, spoke about how Qatar used the Asian Games to showcase the country successfully.
“It was my first ever Asian Games and I’ll always remember the spectacular way in which the cauldron was lit. Qatar has successfully used sports to promote itself. They had an ambitious blueprint for the future, and they’ve implemented it well,” said Macleod.
“The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be an even better opportunity to shine a beacon on the country’s achievements in various fields,” he added.
Husain Al Musallam, Director General of the Olympic Council of Asia, recalled how he was initially against Doha’s bid when the idea was first floated in 1998.
“Doha surprised me with their ambitious bid for the 2006 Asiad, and I was one of those who asked why? It required a lot of investment, and I wasn’t sure Qatar could pull it off. I wondered how the country could house 10,000 plus athletes, arrange for their transportation, catering and waste management?” said Al Musallam.
“I then met with the country’s wise leadership, who convinced me about Qatar’s plans to become a global sports hub. The Asian Games would be the first step towards it. It indeed proved to be their biggest legacy-building event,” he said.
Sheikh Saoud said careful planning had gone into identifying future uses of the infrastructure built for the Asian Games.
“A year after winning hosting rights, we carefully studied the sectors in Qatar that required an urgent infrastructural boost. We found that Hamad Medical Corporation needed it the most. So the Athletes’ Village was converted to housing blocks for the corportation’s staff and some buildings were transformed into hospitals. None of our efforts went to waste,” he said.
There were also non-material benefits.
“The Schools Olympic Programme, launched in 2007, was a direct result of the Asiad. The Qatar Olympic Academy was established the same year. It also motivated us to set up the Middle East’s first WADA-accredited Anti-Doping Lab in 2011. All these wouldn’t have been possible without the Doha Asian Games,” he said.