First the World Cup, now Qatar wants 2020 Olympics


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The Independent Online

A year after Qatar became the first Arab country to win the right to host the World Cup, the tiny but wealthy Gulf state is trying to bring the 2020 Olympics to the Middle East.

Doha has successfully hosted major sporting events such as the Asian Games in 2006 and tennis tournaments featuring top-ranked players. This year it hosted Asia's continental soccer tournament in January and the opening Diamond League track meet in May.

Doha is vying for the 2020 Olympics with Baku, Istanbul, Tokyo, Madrid and Rome. Candidate cities must submit their plans to the International Olympic Committee by February. The IOC board meets in May to decide who stays in the race, with a winner chosen in September 2013.

The May meeting is key for Doha. The Gulf city was eliminated early on from the campaign for the 2016 Olympics after the IOC board rejected its request to stage the Games outside the preferred July-August time slot.

Soaring temperatures, which can hit 50C in June and July, ruled out Qatar's first Olympic bid four years ago. But it won the right to host the 2022 World Cup after producing innovative designs and air-conditioning systems to cool stadiums.

The country has never qualified for the World Cup and was criticised for its lavish spending on the World Cup bid. Sceptics were particularly harsh after Mohammed bin Hammam, Qatar's top soccer official, received a lifetime ban from Fifa for allegedly paying bribes in a campaign to oust Sepp Blatter, the organisation's head.

Qatari sports officials say the country is now fully focused on the Olympics. Sheik Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, the secretary-general of Qatar's Olympic Committee, said: "We are thinking ahead and planning for the future, bidding for Olympic Games and maybe other events."