Following a theme running through the Doha GOALS conference, much of the focus of the Thinktank on The Future of the Olympic Games was on timing of the event.
While the four-year cycle was not in doubt, the traditional August schedule should not be set in stone, according to H.E. Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Secretary General of the Qatar Olympic Committee.
“Timing has always been the main issue when we have been bidding for any event during the past 15 years,” he said. “In order to go to a new region, events have to adapt as summer and winter are not the same all over the world.”
He stressed it was vital to keep the momentum of change despite challenges, and that there was a need for more dialogue between potential host countries and event organisers to assess requirements.
“Timing of the Olympics was adjusted for Sydney and Mexico, so it has been done before and can be done again with early planning.”
Another Thinktank participant, Guy Drut who was IOC Evaluation Commission member for Rio 2016 and former Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports in France, revealed a second big concern for host countries and organisers – the number of sports and participants at the Games.
“In our brainstorming, we had to deal with the question that kept repeating itself which was the size of the Games, the difficulty of organisation and the links between the various partners, as well the legacy issue,” he said.
Praising the recent London Olympics, which had been a superb success in all areas, Drut said the International Olympic Committee was working on improvements relating to the selection of sports, the environment, size of accompanying delegations of parents, coaches and managers, as well as adapting to new media and its implications.
“We must achieve solidarity to know how to ensure the highest number benefit from the subsidies and Olympic spirit – and will go back and discuss these points further,” he said.
Underlining the vast task involved in awarding an Olympic Games to a host city, Drut said the vision of the bid had to justify the investment, while other considerations were the social, economic and education impact as well as venues and accommodation.
Elaborating on the success of the London Olympics, UK Minister for Sport, Olympic Legacy and Tourism Huge Robertson said there had been four major areas earmarked for attention - economic benefits, regeneration of Stratford in East London, social impact and increased participation in sports.
While it was too early to report back on several of these points, the Minister said statistics just released show an increase in participation of 750,000 for people taking part in sports at least once a week over the period October 2011 to October 2012 – a trend he expected to continue.
For Qatar, which has bid twice unsuccessfully and indicated a further bid for 2024, H.E. Sheikh Saoud said legacy had been built in to the country’s Olympic bid: “With a masterplan, you gain even if you don’t win the bid,” he stressed. “From there, we build for the region, inspiring the youth of Qatar and of the region and ensuring the sporting culture will continue, both on a competitive level and sport for all.”
He also outlined initiatives that were underway in the country ranging from the Aspire Academy for Sport Excellence to the School Olympics and high performance centres for women athletes, the latter designed to increase participation both at the Olympics and for leisure.
Concluding, H.E. Sheikh Saoud said individual sports would always compete to be included in the Olympics, with rugby and golf the latest additions: “There were 28 sports in the Beijing Games and 26 in London – but for the Asian Games, Qatar hosted 38 sports and 10,600 athletes so we can handle it.”