Doha and Baku Are Snubbed by the Olympics Once Again

For the second straight Olympic bid, campaigns from Doha in Qatar and Baku in Azerbaijan were sent home even before the race got interesting.

Doha was already warned that that they would have to convince the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that holding the Games outside the traditional summer months would be a feasible proposition – the reason that they were rejected during the 2016 campaign. But apparently it didn’t happen.

When the IOC ran the idea past the Olympic Broadcasting Services and the International Television and Marketing Services – they highlighted several risks, and American broadcaster NBC who paid over $4 billion (USD) for broadcasting rights certainly had an influence on the decision. The report that came back said broadcasters wouldn’t get the viewership they would expect from a Games scheduled in the summer. With less leisure time in October, they would become the “weekend Olympic Games”.

Doha seemed to be rejected solely on this basis; according to evaluation report scoring the Qatari bid did moderately well, placing third ahead of Istanbul.

Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman al Thani, General Secretary of the Qatar Olympic Committee took the news well, he said “we will continue and we will not give up; sport is in our DNA.”

At the moment of the announcement the Doha team remained composed and some even applauded the decision that put their rivals on the short list. A few minutes later the bid committee distributed prepared statements with remarks about the bid’s defeat. This did not come as a complete surprise to the Doha delegates, and they were gracious in defeat.

In her remarks Doha 2020 CEO Noora Al Mannai dropped a hint about future plans, “…much of the legacy plans for 2020 will go on,” she said.

“We will digest the findings of the IOC report and look forward to the 2024 race.”

Baku’s bid was fundamentally rejected, with the evaluation group explicitly advising that the bid not move forward.

“The city’s infrastructure and Games’ planning and experience are not sufficiently developed…,” the report stated.

“Concern was also expressed whether the significant construction required to host the Games was consistent with the size and legacy needs of the city.”

The bid team was visibly distraught at the announcement and immediately left the venue without making themselves generally available to the press.

In a statement, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Sport and Youth, Azad Rahimov said “The IOC’s decision is a setback, but I can assure you that we will listen and learn from the feedback the IOC has offered us about our 2020 bid – and then we will come back next time even stronger.”

According to the Associated Press, when the IOC Executive Committee voted Baku was buried with a 0-12 vote, Doha fell 3-9, Istanbul scored 11-1 and Tokyo and Madrid were unanimous at 12-0.

With only Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo left in the race this will be the smallest field for a Summer Games bid since the two-city 1988 ballot when Seoul, South Korea defeated Nagoya, Japan.