Doha has not ruled out making a fresh bid to bring the Olympics to the Middle East for the first time, despite being ruled out of the running to host the 2020 Games.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday announced that the Qatari capital and Baku in Azerbaijan had not made the short-list for the 2020 Games, leaving Madrid, Tokyo and Istanbul in the running as the leading candidates.
“We are obviously very disappointed… (and) surprised by this decision,” said Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, general secretary of the Qatar Olympic Committee.
But he vowed to learn from their failure, signaling plans to revive Qatar’s bid for 2024.
The IOC Working Group outlined in a report that Doha’s proposal to host the Games ranked high in terms of technical ability alongside Tokyo and Madrid, and above Istanbul — which all made the first cut.
Gas-rich Qatar, named as host for the 2022 football World Cup, has already built or budgeted for many of the venues and so its bid would have offered a degree of certainty in uncertain economic times.
But it has one insurmountable problem that hampers any bid — the harsh climate.
Temperatures in the Gulf country soar close to a blistering hot 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in July and August when the Games are usually held.
The IOC granted Doha a rare exception to possibly host the Games in October and November, when the weather is cooler.
But broadcasters expressed concerns that a shift in the dates could mean a smaller television audience, according to the report, although there were fewer objections when Sydney moved its Games to September for similar reasons.
Other issues may also hinder any future bid.
By some accounts, the furor over bribery accusations after Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup made IOC members reluctant to suffer the same bad press as football’s world governing body.
“Offering the Games to Qatar would expose the IOC to the same risks as FIFA,” commented one IOC member after a meeting in Quebec City, citing the high-profile allegations of graft in the bidding process, which Qatar has strongly denied.
Another problem is size.
IOC president Jacques Rogge told AFP in 2008 that “a city of less than two million people cannot ever hope to host the Games.”
Qatar has a population of only 1.7 million, albeit concentrated in its capital.
Rogge acknowledged though that any future bids should take into account the country’s rapidly-developing sporting infrastructure and experience of hosting major events.
“Qatar is already organizing many events, including the World Cup, this is not insignificant,” he said when Qatar was dropped from the running for the 2016 Games.
But despite its wealth and thirst for the Games, the first “Arab” Olympics is a long way off.