Doha, Qatar will host the 2030 Asian Games and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia will stage the event in 2034 after a historic and last-minute double election Wednesday awarded both cities for their highly-regarded projects.
The decision was made during the 39th Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) General Assembly in Muscat, Oman with national Olympic committees attending both in person and virtually online. Only Doha, set to host its second Asian Games, and Riyadh that will host for the first time, were in the running.
The vote count for 2030 host city election was 27 for Doha, 10 for Riyadh and there were 8 abstentions.
OCA President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah proposed to members that both cities, having presented “excellent” projects, be awarded the Games and the city receiving the highest number of votes would host in 2030 with the runner-up being awarded the 2034 edition. The membership unanimously approved this motion ahead of the final vote.
Sheikh Ahmad had met with bid leaders Tuesday night to broker the double-election deal that will lock in host cities for the second largest international multi-sport event over the next four editions.
“It is clear that Doha is at a higher level of readiness and certainly has the necessary experience to host the Games at any time.” OCA Evaluation Commission Andrey Kryukov told members.
“Riyadh also has enough time to prepare for the Games at the proper level,” he added.
With a mix of online and on site delegates among the electors, the vote was marred with technical difficulties and had to be restarted several times causing many delays. The final vote was conducted online for remote delegates and by paper ballot for those inside the auditorium.
Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia asked the OCA to halt electronic voting due to “the possibility of technical fraud.” Suspicions were raised when it was noticed that a browser tab was open to a page labelled “learn ethical hacking” on the projected laptop screen in the auditorium that was following the voting progress.
Sheikh Ahmad explained that the laptop in question had been borrowed from a technician who is taking an online hacking course.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar are bitter rivals, having been engaged in a diplomatic dispute since 2017.
With a slogan offering the Games as ‘Your Gateway,’ Doha plans to leverage existing legacy built for the previous 2006 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 new valuable intangible and human legacies for all of Asia starting as early as next year.
Qatar’s Games’ plans cost is USD $1.3 billion that would be offset by $1.46 billion in revenues resulting in a $151 million profit.
Riyadh coined ‘Transforming the Future’ and proposes to use a combination of existing venues and already planned facilities to be constructed that will be state-of-the-art when needed in 2030. Organizers have positioned the Games as a progressive opportunity for Saudi women to rise in sports.
Both bids elevated their projects to national priorities meeting long term goals.
The OCA opened up the 2030 Asian Games bid process last January when it sent an information circular inviting the 45 member national Olympic committees to submit bids.
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.
Bid books were submitted to the OCA on October 4 and site evaluations of the two cities were carried out from November 8 to 10 in Riyadh and November 11-13 in Doha.
“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 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.”
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.
This developing news story will be updated…