(ATR) Two neighboring countries in a years-long diplomatic row are facing off for the right to host the 2030 Asian Games.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) announced on Thursday that Doha, Qatar and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia submitted official bids before the April 22 deadline.
In June 2017, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic relations with Qatar and initiated an air, sea and land blockade of the country. Qatar was accused of supporting terrorism and friendly relations with Iran in violation of an agreement with other states in the Gulf region. So far, Qatar has refused to comply with demands that would end the blockade.
Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been accused of "sports washing" by human rights advocates, who say the countries are using sport to help mitigate their poor human rights records.
The OCA, though, views a Qatar vs. Saudi Arabia bidding battle as a positive for Asian sports.
"With these two bids for the 2030 Asian Games we now have stability and continuity in our sports movement for the next decade," OCA President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah said in a statement.
"This will allow our National Olympic Committees, our administrators and, above all, our athletes to make solid plans for the future in the short term, medium term and long term.
"It puts us in an envious position in terms of our sports calendar and highlights again that Asia is a major partner in the global Olympic movement."
The 19th Asian Games will take place in Hangzhou, China in 2022 and the 20th Asiad will be in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan in 2026.
Doha hosted the 15th edition of the Asian Games in 2006. The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be in Qatar. The World Athletics Championships were held in Doha last year.
"The Doha of today is very different to the Doha of 2006 and the Doha of 2030 will be even more advanced. Athletes, NOCs, fans and all stakeholders can be assured of the very highest standards," Qatar Olympic Committee President Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Al-Thani said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia has never organized an OCA multi-sport event though the country has taken steps in that direction by hosting events such as the heavyweight boxing title fight between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr. in December near Riyadh.
The Saudi International golf tournament began in 2019 and has been a stop on the European Tour for the past two seasons. Hosting sporting events is part of Kingdom Vision 2030, the long-term plan designed to lessen the country's dependence on oil to support its economy.
The president of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Alfaisal, said in a statement "I have the full trust that the Riyadh 2030 bid will be a very powerful demonstration of our vision that aims to bring Asia together to deliver the best Asian Games ever."
The election of the host city for the 21st Asian Games is scheduled for November 29, 2020, during the OCA General Assembly on the sidelines of the 6th Asian Beach Games in Sanya, China.
Written by Gerard Farek
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