Delegations from Doha, Qatar and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia have touched down in Oman and into the crucial final sprint in a race to host the 2030 Asian Games.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) on Wednesday will vote for a winner in a race between two neighboring bitter rivals with the hosting rights to the world’s second largest international multi-sport event at stake. Doha seeks its second opportunity after recently staging the event in 2006; Saudi Arabia is vying to host in the Kingdom for the first time.
Doha plans to leverage existing legacy built for the previous Games along with new infrastructure developed for Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup to stage a sustainable no-build event. This strategy, the bid says, will allow the organizing committee to focus on valuable tangible and intangible legacies for all of Asia starting as early as next year.
Riyadh, on the other hand, will use a combination of existing venues and already planned facilities that will be state-of-the-art when needed in 2030. Both bids have elevated their projects to national priorities meeting long term goals.
Delegations are on site at the JW Marriot Hotel in Muscat but the vote will be held online to accommodate National Olympic Committees (NOCs) who are unable to travel due to restrictions and health protocols in place to fight the global pandemic. The host city vote will be the focus of the 39th OCA General Assembly.
“At the end of a difficult year, the OCA is very happy to bring the Olympic movement in Asia together for our General Assembly,” OCA President Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah said from Muscat.
“We would like to thank the National Olympic Committees who have been able to travel to Muscat for our important meeting, and also we understand the complicated situation for other NOCs who have not been able to attend in person due to travel restrictions and health protocols in various countries and regions.
“We are confident we will have a smooth and efficient meeting and that we will continue to show our unity and cooperation in such unique circumstances.”
Despite the pandemic, the 2030 bid process was carried out quickly during 2020 with the two cities confirmed in the race in April and most of the campaign activity occurring in the latter half of the year. Earlier interest from India and the Philippines failed to materialize.
“Our OCA Evaluation Committee visited the two cities in November and were very impressed with the hosting plans, the dynamic programs in place and the world-class sports infrastructure, as well as the sheer passion and excitement to host our Asian Games,” Sheikh Ahmad said.
“We know that our Asian Games will be in very safe hands in 2030, and I would like to thank the two bidding cities for their efforts and their enthusiasm.”
The site evaluation visits by the OCA were led by Kazakhstan’s OCA member Andrey Kryukov who told reporters “the committee is very happy with what it saw and believe that Riyadh has a good potential to host a successful Games in 2030.”
He also claimed after visiting Qatar that “the committee is satisfied with what we saw and believe that Doha’s existing infrastructure and sustainable concept will allow them to host a successful Games in 2030.”
Saudi Arabia is among regional allies that have imposed a trade and travel embargo on Qatar since 2017 amid charges that the tiny nation supports terrorism. Qatar has denied these claims. The dispute has added extra energy into this two-horse race.
Both cities have also entered the race to host the 2027 Asian World Cup to be decided next year, and Doha officials have hinted that they may launch a 2032 Olympic Games bid.
The 2022 Asian Games will be held in Hangzhou, China, and the 2026 edition is planned to be staged in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.