Doha not trying to buy 2020 Olympics, despite allegations
DOHA, Qatar (AP) -- Qatar, one of the world's richest countries with vast oil and gas reserves, is not trying to buy the 2020 Olympics, the chief executive of the Doha bid said Wednesday.
Noora al-Mannai has heard such allegations following claims the Gulf nation's winning bid for the 2022 World Cup was tainted by corruption, but she said that wouldn't affect whether Doha becomes the first country in the Middle East to host the Olympics.
"You are here and you see it's genuine, and the leaders of the country want to do it for different reasons," al-Mannai said while attending a sports and security conference. "If we wanted to put Qatar on the map, we would buy something else. It's not about buying the games as much as developing the sports in the region. The whole region never hosted the games. So why don't we host it?"
Doha is competing against Madrid, Tokyo, Istanbul and Baku, Azerbaijan.
The executive board of the International Olympic Committee will vote in May whether to trim the short list. The winning bid will be announced in September 2013 from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Doha is proposing to host the 2020 Olympics from Oct. 2-18 to avoid the searing summer heat. Under Doha's bid plans, the Paralympics will be held from Nov. 4-15.
Qatar has portrayed its bid as a chance to boost interest in Olympic sports in a region that has struggled to win medals. It is also seen as an opportunity to increase women's participation. The country plans to send female athletes to the Olympics for the first time, including a swimmer and sprinter on the team for the London Games.
"There is for sure no corruption. We won't buy anything, for sure," al-Mannai said. "We will just try really hard to persuade people to bring the games to region. We feel sick because we are not trying to buy the games. We want genuinely to bring the games, bring the movement here, and to have history for Olympic games in Qatar."
Doha failed to make the IOC shortlist for the 2016 Olympics because of concerns about the weather and moving the games outside the regular July-August dates. The bid also suffered because few sports facilities had been built and because organizers failed to consult with some federations before its submission.
The IOC agreed last year to Doha's request to bid for 2020 within a timeframe of Sept. 20-Oct. 20. That would avoid the worst of the summer heat in Qatar, where temperatures can reach 105 degrees.