(ATR) The sand starts flying in Doha with the opening of the first ANOC World Beach Games.
Beach soccer and beach handball are on the schedule for Friday. The latter will have matches every day through the end of the games October 16.
They will be held at Al Gharrafa Beach, one of four venues around Doha that will host the 13 sports on the program.
About 1240 athletes from 97 nations will compete in Doha.
"The 1st ANOC World Beach Games represents another landmark occasion for Qatar. The nature of this event provides us with an opportunity to show the world what Qatar has to offer as a leading leisure destination," said organizing committee Director General Jassim Rashid at a press conference on the eve of the games.
"Our venues have been carefully selected with this in mind, ranging from the stunning beach front location of Katara Beach, where most of the action will be centered, to the clear waters of Legtaifiya Lagoon," he said.
These inaugural ANOC World Beach Games are also a test of Qatar’s skill as aquick study. After being awarded to San Diego in 2017, the U.S. city bowed out four months ago, unable to secure government support for the event.
Qatar agreed to step in to host, despite the short time frame and the challenge of also hosting the IAAF Athletics World Championships that ended last week.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar and an IOC member, is credited with encouraging Qatar’s vision to host the world’s biggest sport events. In 2022 Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup. Last year Qatar held the FIG Gymnastics World Championships. In 2006 Doha hosted the Asian Games.
"We would like to express our thanks to His Highness the Emir, the state of Qatar and everyone at the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) for their warm hospitality. In just three months they have achieved a huge amount and we have no doubt this will be a fantastic event," said ANOC Secretary General Gunilla Lindberg.
The first medals will be won on Oct. 13 in karate and the 5km open water swim. Overall, 350 medals will be contested.
The competition will be live streamed on the official website www.awbgqatar.com. The Olympic Channel will also present coverage of the games.
Reported by Ed Hula.