The chase to host the 2020 Summer Games was cut down to a three horse race between Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo after Doha and Baku were dropped from the running by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday.
Doha, capital of the Gulf state of Qatar, and Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, were rejected for a second time in a row after failing to make the final list for the 2016 Games.
“This is a great disappointment for the Doha team,” Doha 2020 CEO Noora Al Mannai said following Wednesday’s announcement in a packed Quebec City ballroom.
“With so many sports venues already in place and budgeted for, we felt that we offered the IOC great certainty and a low cost Games plan as well as an exciting legacy vision, especially around developing women’s sport in the Middle East.
However, the disappointed Qataris insisted it was a matter of “when, not if” Doha would stage the Games, and assured that the city would look forward to the 2024 race.
“However for Doha, it will always be a question of when, not if,” Al Mannai added in a statement on Thursday.
Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, General Secretary of the Qatar Olympic Committee, said the Qataris were surprised by the decision, and look forward to study and reflect on the findings of the IOC report.
“We are obviously very disappointed not to become a Candidate City for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” he said.
“Whilst we felt that the hosting plans and legacy vision we submitted … were strong and innovative, we of course respect the decision of the IOC Executive Board.”
Flush with petrodollars wealth, Qatar flexed its financial muscle to clinch the right to host the 2022 FIFA Football World Cup in December 2010. However, it was unable to convince the IOC to let it hold the traditionally Summer Games in autumn.
The Lausanne-based olympic committee not just judged the desert venue on searing temperatures, but also the prospect of low television ratings if the Games were to go up against other major sporting events.
“In July/August, people have more leisure/vacation time. There is therefore a risk that an October Games would become a ‘weekend Olympics Games’ and with a reduced demographic reach, broadcasters would have difficulties in attracting the same audience levels in terms of working people and youth.”
The high stakes run-off reaches the finish line in Buenos Aires in September 2013, when the IOC will vote on the 2020 host city.
Madrid, Istanbul and Tokyo are set to engage in 16 months of furious campaigning in order to convince the IOC they are up to the task of staging the world’s biggest sporting spectacle.
If Doha’s bid team were consoled by Qatar’s successful bid to stage the 2022 FIFA World Cup, they were not showing it.
“I think the two countries that were eliminated are emerging markets and I think it is a missed opportunity for the IOC,” said Al Mayassa Al-Thani of the Doha bid.
“The traditional dates don’t suit Doha and that is nothing we can change and we provided the dates we thought were most suitable.
“We believe we did everything in our capacity and in the end it was a decision of the executive board we have to respect despite our disappointment.”