the official magazine of the qatar olympic committee
Giving youth a chance
WORLD CUP 2022
Bidding for the
Elite athletics for Doha
LOSAIL’S MOTOGP UNDER LIGHTS
04 QOC Comment Message from the Secretary General
05 News World-class event round-up
12 Speed and lights Qatar’s brilliant MotoGP
14 Schools Olympic Day Setting new standards
18 FIFA World Cup 2022 Bid team means business
20 Global Sport Fund Investing in young people
22 Super Grand Prix Doha rolls out the red carpet
24 Allyson Felix Fast out of the blocks
26 Partners in Sport ASO and the Tour of Qatar
29 Sports Diary Highlights of the sporting season
30 Health & Society Food and drink for thought
34 The Big Interview Mr MotoGP, Carmelo Ezpeleta
No article in this publication or part thereof may be reproduced without proper permission and full acknowledgement of the source:
Qatar Sport, a publication of the Qatar Olympic Committee.
© Qatar Olympic Committee, 2009.
Designed and produced for the Qatar Olympic Committee by SportBusiness Group, London.
Cover photo: 2009 Qatar MotoGP winner Casey Stoner / Getty Images
Q2.09 QATARSPORT 3
Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Secretary General, Qatar Olympic Committee
In March we were privileged to join the leaders of
the world’s sports community in Denver, Colorado, for
the latest edition of SportAccord, the leading meeting
for sports federations and administrators.
It was a fascinating opportunity to meet friends who
are helping shape the future of sport and to exchange
ideas with them.
Sport is truly global in its attitudes and aspirations
and we are determined that Qatar should continue to
play an active role on the world stage.
“We promise to deliver a tournament
which reflects our emphasis on quality
on every level, from administration to
stadiums and training facilities”
Looking ahead to some of the events which are in
the pipeline demonstrate that commitment and shows
just what a busy calendar we have right through until
2011 when Qatar will host both the Asian Football
Confederation Cup and the Pan Arab Games.
We are delighted to have been selected to host the
AFC Cup which will bring Asia’s leading teams to
Qatar in what will be a tremendous celebration of
the world’s most popular sport. The competition has
grown in stature over the years and today many of the
competing teams are recognised not only as regional
powers but as genuine players on the World Stage. Also
in 2011 we will welcome athletes from throughout
the Arab World to the 12 th Pan Arab Games, a multisport
event which is growing in scale and stature. The
Games were launched in 1953 when the Egyptian
City of Alexandria was the host. We are pleased to be
continuing the tradition and keeping alight the torch
for sport in the Arab world.
We promise to deliver a tournament which
reflects our emphasis on quality on every level, from
administration to stadiums and training facilities.
Before that, however, Qatar will host other truly
significant world-class events. The IAAF’s Indoor
Championships will be staged in Doha in March next
year while in December 2009 some of the world’s finest
young sportsmen will be our guests as they compete in
This is a particularly appropriate event given the
emphasis we place on the creation of opportunities for
youth in sport here in Qatar and beyond.
The latest edition of Schools Olympic Day was a
resounding success and we were particularly pleased
that International Olympic Committee Vice-President
Dr Thomas Bach was our guest at the spectacular finals
day at Aspire.
Dr Bach praised the event highly and emphasised his
appreciation of the way that Schools Olympic Day is
used to link sport with a different theme each year. This
year the theme was sport and environment while next
year we will focus on sport and culture.
Our focus on the role that sport can play in the lives
of young people was also evident earlier this year in
Egypt at the third UNDOC Sports Camp, organised
by the QOC and the United Nations and backed by
Qatar’s Global Sport Fund.
The Camps are a key part of our efforts to show
young people how participation in sport can help them
stay clear of a life of drugs and crime which has become
the scourge of the young in many parts of the world.
We aim to create a generation of ambassadors who
will return to their schools and communities and help
deliver the key message that there is an alternative way
of life and that SPORT can be central to it.
We were extremely happy with the value that the
Camp delivered and with the way that the young
people responded to the opportunity. Now we are
looking forward to the next camp which is scheduled to
take place in Indonesia in September/October.
Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani
Secretary General, Qatar Olympic Commitee
4 QATARSPORT Q2.09
US high-hurdler David
Oliver wins gold at last
year's Qatar Athletics
Super Grand Prix
The Qatar Association of Athletics
Federation (QAAF) is set to sign a
ground-breaking deal that will boost the
international profile of its showcase track
and field event - the Qatar Athletics Super
QAAF President Abdullah Al-Zaini told
Qatar Sport that he is confident Doha will
host a leg of the IAAF Diamond League,
the new elite series that will transform next
year’s World Athletics Tour.
Taking over from the Golden League,
which focuses on six European cities, the
Diamond League will meet one of the
strategic goals of the IAAF, which is to
enhance the worldwide appeal of athletics,
by going outside Europe for the first time.
At present, 12 meetings have signed
contracts to join the Diamond League, with
three others, including the Qatar Athletics
Super Grand Prix, on standby.
According to the QAAF President,
Doha’s signature is just a matter of time.
“Qatar is the only country in the Middle
East and in Asia, outside of China, on the
Diamond League list,” he says.
“It will help us to market and promote
the meeting we’ve held in Doha for the
last 12 years. Doha will gain more media
attention because, like the Golden League
before it, the world media’s focus will be on
the Diamond League.”
Not only will the Super Grand Prix
name change, but the event itself will have
a new slant. Starting in 2010, the Diamond
League will offer more athletes more earning
opportunities - 32 different athletics events
can take part, with each meeting giving out
prize money of $416,000. The biggest stars
of the sport will be engaged with centralised
contracts to ensure that the best athletes
The likely deal with Diamond League
AG, a joint-venture group between the
IAAF and the athletics meetings themselves,
should also see Qatari broadcaster Al
Jazeera become the host broadcaster for the
“QATAR IS THE ONLY
COUNTRY IN THE
MIDDLE EAST AND
IN ASIA, OUTSIDE OF
CHINA, ON THE DIAMOND
Doha event. The current broadcast partner
of the Super Grand Prix still has some
rights “issues to fine-tune, but is inclined to
support Qatar in all its sporting ambitions,”
The excitement generated by the
Diamond League project, however, did not
detract from this year’s Super Grand Prix
held at the Qatar Sports Club (see pages
22-23). Prior commitments meant that
Jamaican sprint hero Usain Bolt declined
the organiser’s invitation to run, but his
compatriot and former world record holder,
Usafa Powell was set to compete, as were
numerous Olympic medal winners.
But the Diamond League isn’t the only
event on the QAAF’s radar. Next March,
Doha will host the IAAF World Indoor
Championships in Athletics, which will
see around 1,200 athletes and officials
converge on Doha. And then there is
London 2012. Al-Zaini says the QAAF
is now concentrating on elite youth
development with the next IAAF World
Junior Championships sure to “see quite
good numbers from Qatar.” This year’s
2009 Doha Gymnasiade, he said, is also a
target for Qatar’s future medal hopes.
Q2.09 QATARSPORT 5
Qatari telecoms company
Qtel has signed a fiveyear
deal to became the
Partner for the Qatar Stars League
(QSL). The agreement will see Qtel
provide communication and financial
support for the QSL. Qtel is also set to
support His Highness The Emir Cup;
His Highness The Heir Apparent Cup;
and The Sheikh Jassim Cup - Qatar’s
three official cup tournaments. Qtel
is already a sponsor of the AFC Asian
Cup tournament, to be held in Qatar in
2011 and the AFC Champions League
The Qatar Equestrian
Federation hosted the first
Emir Cup Show Jumping
Championship at the Qatar Racing
& Equestrian Club on March 16 and
17. HE Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al-Thani,
riding Brigad, was crowned winner of
the inaugural cup.
Financial rewards will be
given to the winners of the
12th Pan Arab Games, to
be hosted by Qatar in 2011. “We will
allocate US$5000 for the winner, while
the runner-up gets US$2000 and
the third-place winner will receive
US$1000,” said QOC Secretary General,
The board of the Asian
Handball Federation in
Kuwait has approved
a proposal submitted by the
Qatar Handball Federation, which
would allow the organisation of a
continental Asian event to take place
one year before the international
Qatari distance runners took
all three medal positions
in the 12km senior men’s
race at the 10th Asian Cross Country
Championship in Manama, Bahrain
in March. Ahmed Hassan Abdullah,
Essa Ismail Rashed and Felix Kikwai
Kibore won gold, silver and bronze
respectively. 147 Asian runners took
part in the championship. The race
also saw the comeback of Qatar’s
track star, Saif Saeed Shaheen.
ASIAN CUP LOGO
Qatar’s preparations for hosting the AFC
Asian Cup 2011 passed a bright new milestone
with the unveiling of the tournament’s official
logo at the Diplomatic Club in Doha.
“The AFC Asian Cup is Asia’s biggest
football event and in less than two years it
comes to these shores,” said General Farouk
Bouzo, a member of the AFC Executive
Committee, at the launch ceremony.
Qatari athletes, especially Qatari youth,
are gearing up for three major multi-sports
events this year as the QOC looks to build
on its medal-winning success at the major
This year, the QOC will send multi-sports
teams to the 2nd Islamic Solidarity Games in
Tehran, Iran (October 15-30), the 3rd Asian
Indoor Games in Hanoi, Vietnam (October
30 - November 8) and the 2009 Doha
Gymnasiade (December 4-13).
In Tehran for the 2nd Islamic Solidarity
Games, athletes will compete in 22 events,
including 17 Olympic events and three
Paralympic events, while in Hanoi, 20 sports
will be played at the 3rd Asian Indoor Games,
including ‘E-Sports’ - more commonly known
as computer games.
At the end of the year, the 2009 Doha
Gymnasiade will see some 3,000 international
students between the ages of 15 and 18 come
to Qatar to compete in aquatics (swimming
and diving), athletics and gymnastics for the
biggest event on the International School Sport
Highlighting Qatar’s sporting commitment
“The AFC Asian Cup is the time to place
Qatar at the epicentre of the football world.”
According to the AFC, the new emblem
uses Qatar’s national symbol, the Oryx,
in a crossing, duelling stance, depicting
competition, while the hexagonal panels reflect
the shape of a football.
The Asian theme is completed with the
sphere’s representation as a rising sun in the
east and Qatar’s national colour, maroon, in the
west. In another variation of the logo, the host
nation’s heritage and pride is represented by the
maroon Qatar ‘wordmark’.
The qualifying rounds for Asian football’s
showcase tournament got underway in January
this year with 10 AFC Asian Cup spots up for
grabs under a new qualification system set up
by the AFC.
The successful nations from the qualifying
rounds will join six teams which qualify
automatically: the host nation Qatar; the top
three finishers in the 2007 tournament(Iraq,
Saudi Arabia and Korea Republic); the winner
of the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup (India); and
the winner of the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup
(to be determined).
INVEST IN YOUTH, SAYS QOC
to youth, QOC President, His Highness
Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, said that
all federations should concentrate on the next
generation of athletes, as well as grassroots
sport, over the Olympic cycle from 2008-2012.
The QOC President stressed to the
federations the importance of coordinating
with the Ministry of Education and supporting
the Schools Olympic Day programme (see
The Global Sport Fund and the associated
training camps for youth, held in collaboration
with the United Nations, will also be at the
forefront of QOC activities over the current
Olympic cycle, he said (see pages 14-16).
Other initiatives outlined by the QOC
include the creation of an Anti-Doping
Laboratory in conjunction with Aspetar,
Qatar's Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine
Hospital, scheduled for completion by the
end of 2012. An Olympic Sports Museum,
in cooperation with the Olympic Museum in
Lausanne, Switzerland, is also expected to open
that year. Designed by the architects of the
Barcelona Olympic Museum, it will be located
at Khalifa Stadium in the Aspire Zone.
6 QATARSPORT Q2.09
ASPIRE CHEERS FOR AC MILAN STARS
Stars of the future came face-to-face with
some of the biggest soccer stars on the
planet when AC Milan visited the Aspire
Academy in March.
Kaka, David Beckham, Ronaldinho,
Paolo Maldini and a host of AC Milan
regulars received a tumultuous reception
from the young sports students as Aspire’s
senior management led the players on a
guided tour of the world’s largest indoor
Milan’s Clarence Seedorf, who had
visited Aspire in 2007 with the UEFA
Champion League Trophy, dedicated a
special gift for the Aspire students gathered
on the indoor football pitch, with the
words, “The power of sport is the power of
education and that together is the future
and our hope.”
Special cheers were also reserved for the
Brazilian Ronaldinho, who features in an
Aspire TV commercial, which promotes the
Academy’s core values of competitiveness,
ambition and sporting spirit.
The players, including Kaka and David
Beckham, signed their names on Aspire’s
VIP mural and signature book, before
visiting ASPETAR, Qatar's Orthopaedic
and Sports Medicine Hospital.
While the tour was pure delight for
the students, Aspire’s Sports Director, Dr
Andreas Bleicher stressed there were more
serious reasons behind the visit.
“ASPIRE is delighted to welcome such
honoured guests who have achieved so
much in their careers,” he said.
”With their inspiring performances on
the field for both club and country they
have motivated many young people around
the world to take part in sport, not least in
Qatar where football is the most popular
sport among young people.
“As part of Aspire’s ongoing mission
to unearth new talent in the region, we
hope this visit is the first of many to
Aspire’s state-of-the-art facilities by top
AC Milan’s invitation to Doha was
inspired by a remarkable testimonial match
for Al Sadd FC’s veteran midfielder Jafal
Rashed Al Kuwari, who played his last
match for the club he captained for more
than seven years against the Italian giants.
Goals by Alexandre Pato, and Andriy
Top and right: AC Milan superstars Kaka and
Ronaldinho are greeted by applauding Aspire Academy
students as they make their way onto the indoor
football pitch. Above: David Beckham signs his name
on Aspire’s VIP mural
Shevchenko clinched a 2-1 victory for the
near full-strength Italian side in front of an
impressive crowd at the Al Sadd Stadium.
Later in the month, three Spanish
internationals, Guti and Michel Salgado of
Real Madrid and Fernando Morientes of
Valencia visited the Academy on a tour that
took in Aspetar and other sporting clubs
at the invitation of the Qatar Professional
The football stars were the latest in
a rich range of famous visitors to the
Academy over the years, including Pelé,
Diego Maradona, Rabah Madjer, Zinedine
Zidane, Nadia Comaneci, Mark Spitz,
Edwin Moses, Said Aouita, Hicham El
Guerrouj, ‘Ro’ Antonio Blackman and
Q2.09 QATARSPORT 7
Qatar’s gymnastics team
won the overall title at the
GCC Artistic Championship
in Kuwait in February. Qatar’s fourmember
senior team won five gold,
two silver and one bronze medals
while the junior side won a bronze in
team event. Senior Qatari gymnasts
Mahmoud Al Saadi and Nasser Al
Hamad are likely to compete at the
Artistic Gymnastics World Cup event
in Doha, which has been rescheduled
for September 28 – 30, 2009.
Experts from the Coaching
Association of Canada
coordinated a training
course to prepare Qatar’s national
coaches in a number of sports.
Charles Cardinal and Philip Michel
led the 12–day course, which was
organised by the QOC’s Sport Affairs
Department and featured coaches
from volleyball, basketball, wrestling,
weightlifting, bodybuilding, track
and field, sailing, rowing, and the
Federation of People With Special
Needs. Ten women coaches
participated in the course.
Aspire’s youth football
teams beat their
counterparts from Spanish
giants Real Madrid and the Ghanaian
national team in recent friendly
matches. The two matches between
Aspire U-16s and Real Madrid U-15s
resulted in a win (4-1) and draw (3-3)
for the home team.
Qatar’s sailors struck
gold at the Abu Dhabi
Championship in March. Gold
medals went to Hassan Al Tamimi
in the 4.7 class and Mohammad Al
Mohannadi in the Optimist event.
Walid Al Sharshani won a bronze
medal in the Laser Radial class.
Ten young Qatari tennis
players joined the Asian
Tennis boys rankings
after taking part in the West Asian
Youth Tennis Championships held
in Doha in February. The five-day
championship featured 57 young
players representing nine nations.
BOLL SAVES BEST TILL LAST
Germany’s Timo Boll held his nerve to win
the men’s singles event in dramatic style at
the Qatar Open Table Tennis Championship
staged at the Qatar Sports Club in February.
Boll beat China’s 2008 Olympic
Champion Ma Lin in seven hard-fought
games and, in doing so, prevented the
Chinese star winning an unprecedented hattrick
of consecutive Qatar Open titles.
In the semi-final Boll had recovered from
a three games to one deficit against China’s
number seven seed Hao Shuai to book his
place in the final - the first time he had ever
reached a senior final in Qatar.
In the final, Boll began more strongly, this
time going three games to one up, before Ma
Lin (who beat compatriot Wang Liqin in the
semi-final) launched a stunning comeback.
In a nerve-wracking deciding game, the
left-handed Boll failed to convert two match
points, then saved two, before clinching the
title at the third time of asking.
“It’s a huge victory for me,” said a jubilant
Boll after the match. “I would rate this
success very highly as I have been playing
my best for the last six months. This win will
The Qatar Stars League (QSL) the fastestgrowing
professional football league in the
Gulf region, will expand from 10 to 12 teams
from next season.
Under the new rules, this season’s relegated
team Al Khiraityiat will be granted a lifeline
and the already-promoted Second Division
do a world of good to my confidence going
into the world championship [in Yokohama,
Japan, April 28 - May 5].”
In the women’s event, China’s Zhang
Yining retained her women’s singles title
beating compatriot and doubles partner Guo
Yue in four straight games.
In a contest between the reigning Olympic
champion and the reigning world champion,
the former came through in four straight
games, underlining her status as the world’s
number one women’s player.
Ma Long and Xu Xin, the rising stars of
Chinese table tennis won the men’s doubles
crown, while Guo Yue and Zhang Yining
retained their women’s doubles title.
In the under-21 events, the ASPIRE
Academy for Sports Excellence presented
the ‘Aspire Rookie Award’ to the men’s
and women’s champions: Japan’s Kenta
Matsudaira and Yuka Ishigaki.
The Rookie awards were launched at the
start of the year to recognise outstanding
young talent taking part in the many
sports events that Aspire is associated with
throughout Qatar’s sporting year.
QATAR STARS LEAGUE EXPANSION
champions Al Ahli will be joined in the QSL
by runners-up Al Shammal.
The Qatar Football Association will also
reduce the quota of foreign players allowed
per team in the QSL from three players,
plus one Asian, to conform with rules for
competing in the AFC Champions League.
8 QATARSPORT Q2.09
CYCLING INTO HISTORY
The Qatar Cycling
the first ever women’s
professional cycling race
to be held in the Middle East
when the 1st Women’s Tour of
Qatar pedalled off from Doha’s
Islamic Art Museum in February.
The three-day tour brought
together 15 teams, including six
national squads, and 90 top-class riders, to race over
300 kilometres across Qatar’s contrasting city, desert
and coastal landscapes.
Dutch rider Kirsten Wild of the CervéloTestTeam made
history by winning the overall and points jersey in the
race, which finished with a stage three sprint on the Al
Wild stopped the overall clock four seconds ahead of
Giorgia Bronzini of the Italian national team, the impressive
winner of the first and final stages. Kirsty Broun of the
Australian national team came third.
The Dutch team Flexpoint won the teams classification by
36 seconds ahead of Cervélo TestTeam. Team Columbia-High
Road finished third.
Columbia-High Road rider Kate Bates summed up the mood
of the women cyclists making their Qatar debuts. “It’s a real
honour on two fronts,” she said, “Firstly, because Qatar and
this community have decided to hold this event, but also to be
involved with ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation), who are helping
run an event like this for the first time in conjunction with the
men’s Tour of Qatar.
“That’s how women’s cycling can really go forward… As soon
as we heard this event was taking place everybody wanted to
The women’s tour took place two days after the end of
the men’s Tour of Qatar, which will sadly be remembered
for the death in his hotel room of the Belgian rider
Frederiek Nolf (see tribute, page 27).
Q2.09 QATARSPORT 9
Aspetar, the Qatar
Orthopaedic and Sports
Medicine Hospital, has
received an official certificate of
accreditation naming it as a FIFA
Medical Centre of Excellence.
The selection is based upon a
comprehensive application process
to prove clinical, educational and
research expertise, practical
involvement in the care of teams and
active commitment to preventing
injuries. So far, ten football medicine
centres have received accreditation.
Hundreds of amateur
runners took part in the
12th Olympic Day Run at
the Aspire Zone on April 17. The 3km
race saw men, women, youth and
juniors take part in the event, which
celebrates the launch of the modern
Olympic movement. Registered
athletes from local sport clubs are
not allowed to take part in the event,
which is being held for the 12th time
The QOC’s Sport Affairs
Department organised the
inaugural Islamic Triathlon
Championship at Losail International
Shooting Complex on April 25. The
participants competed in shooting,
horse-riding and swimming events.
Ace Qatari women’s shooter
continued her gold medal
run in national championships by
winning the 50m rifle gold at the
HH Emir Shooting Championship
organised by the Qatar Shooting
and Archery Federation at the Lusail
International Complex in March.
Mahboubeh also took bronze in the
the 10m air rifle event, which was won
by Bahiyah Mansour Al Hamad.
The Qatar Squash Federation
has honoured Ahmad
Mohammed Al Tamimi for
his achievements during the 2008/09
season. The brilliant youngster won
the gold medal at the 14th GCC
Under-17 Championship at Bahrain in
October 2008 and retained the title in
Saudi Arabia this year.
Chinese divers improved on their gold
medal performance at the Beijing Olympics
by sweeping all eight events at the 3rd FINA
Diving World Series in Doha.
With the retirement of China’s Queen of
Diving, Guo Jingjing after the 2008 Olympics
and with He Chong, the double gold medallist
from Beijing, absent because of injury, the rest
of the world must have hoped for a greater
share of the spoils at the state-of-the-art Hamad
Aquatic Centre in March.
But from the very first event, when China
scored a gold-silver 1-2 in the men’s 3m
springboard through Zhang Xinhua and
Olympic bronze medallist Qin Kai, China
dominated the top spots.
Ruolin Chen, the 16-year-old, double gold
medal sensation from Beijing, followed up
with victory in the women’s 10m platform (she
teamed up with Li Kang the next day to win the
10m synchronised dive) setting the standard for
China’s diving team, which also featured Beijing
gold medalists Lin Yue and Huo Liang in the
men’s 10m platform synchro and Wu Minixa in
the women’s 3m springboard.
Over the two days, contenders from
Germany, Australia, Russia, Canada, Great
Britain and Mexico claimed silver or bronze
medals, but it was not until the final event on
the two-day schedule that China’s gold rush was
The dramatic finale pitched the Australian
men’s 10m platform Olympic champion
What they said:
“This once again proves
this country’s passion for
international sport. The level
of competition here was truly
Khaleel Al-Jabir, President
of the Qatar Swimming
“[Hamad Aquatic Centre] is one
of the best venues in the world.
We’ve done very well here
before and we’re pleased with
the performance of our divers
at this event.”
China’s Team Leader, Zhou
“We’ve had a very good
impression of things here
and the Qatar Swimming
Association’s organisation of
this event. Everyone has been
Matthew Mitcham against China’s Zhou
Luxin, his main challenger from Beijing 2008.
In Doha, Mitcham took the lead after two
rounds, but Zhou was the more consistent diver
throughout and took the title - and his revenge
- by just one point.
Aimed at uniting the brightest stars of diving
more often in competition, the launch in Doha
of the four-stop FINA Diving World Series was
hailed as a major success by world swimming’s
governing body - and not just for the quality of
“The organising committee here has set a very
high standard for other countries to follow,”
very helpful and our divers
have enjoyed themselves here.”
Walter Alt, Germany’s Team
“Our divers all think it’s great
to be here. We’ve had some
free time to enjoy the desert
and see the country.”
Kim White, Great Britain’s
High Performance Manager
10 QATARSPORT Q2.09
said Melanie Beck, the FINA Diving World
Series 2009 Director.
“Doha has delivered to the athletes an
extremely comfortable and well-organised
event. I hope other major international
sporting organisations will look at this
competition and how it’s been approached
Above: Chinese divers take the
top two podium position after
the men’s 3m springboard event.
Left: China’s Qin Kai and Wang
Feng compete in the men’s 3m
springboard synchronised event
“We hope to be back next year and
see this as an annual event on the FINA
From Doha, the divers traveled on to
Changzhou, China in late March before
the final two stops of the World Series in
Sheffield, Great Britain and Mexico City,
Mexico in April.
Doha’s hosting of the 15th Asian Games
in 2006 represents the benchmark of
success for organisers of the 2010 Asian
Games in Guangzhou, China, according
to a leading official from the local
organising committee (GAGOC).
On a recent visit to Doha, Yu
Xiaobo, Assistant Secretary General of
the Chinese Olympic Committee and
GAGOC Managing Director said that
Guangzhou aspired to repeat the success
of Doha 2006, which is widely regarded
as the ‘best ever’ Asian Games.
The GAGOC delegation arrived in
Doha, March 18, on a liaison mission
with the QOC and to launch ‘Road
of Asia’, a promotional project for the
Games. “Qatar and China have enjoyed
a dynamic relationship over the years
and our visit to Doha is to strengthen it
further,” Xiaobo said.
Looking forward, he stressed that
GAGOC had planned meticulously
for the Games and, for this reason, was
unconcerned by the fallout from the
world economic slowdown.
“I am proud to
say that we have
23 companies as
sponsors and we
have strategies in
place to ensure costs
don’t spiral out of
control,” he said.
“After last year’s successful Olympic
Games, we are very confident that
Guangzhou 2010 will continue in that
nature and confirm China’s strong
sporting place in the world.”
Xiaobo also expects next year’s Games
to be even bigger than the edition staged
by Doha in December 2006.
“We will see athletes compete at a
number of new disciplines, including
cricket, dance sport, dragon boat and
roller-skating," he said.
“Guangzhou will use 56 different
sports venues for the Games, one of
which will be specially-prepared for the
two weeks. 10,000 athletes will descend
on the city for the games. All in all it is
expected to be a magnificent two weeks
of sporting action.”
Q2.09 QATARSPORT 11
o o o o o o o o o
Casey Stoner won the MotoGP season opener at the
award-winning Losail International Circuit in April to
complete a personal hat-trick of victories in Qatar.
Racing at night under the circuit’s artificial lights, the
Ducati rider produced a near-perfect race to finish more
than seven seconds ahead of defending world champion
Valentino Rossi of Italy with Jorge Lorenzo of Spain in
The 2009 Commercial bank Grand Prix of Qatar was
postponed for 24 hours due to torrential rain, but once
the race got underway the Australian stormed to a two
second lead on lap one and never looked back.
The completion of the race after the previous night’s
trials buoyed the race organisers, who were awarded
with the prize of ‘Best Grand Prix of 2008’ by the
International Road-Racing Teams Association (IRTA) just
three days earlier.
QMMF President Nasser Bin Khalifa Al-Attiyah
accepted the honour from IRTA President Hervé
Poncharal, for last year’s inaugural night race.
Explaining the prestige of the prize, Poncharal said:
“It is a very tough competition to win, as it is voted for by
the teams, riders and mechanics. Not since 1998 has a
non-European event received this award.
Poncharal continued, “The Losail Circuit has the best
possible facilities for the teams to perform their work,
and we believe that it is the safest track that we have, a
track made solely for bikes and not compromised by the
requirements of car racing.
“What really convinced us was their investment of
millions of dollars in their fantastic lighting project,
allowing us to hold a historic first floodlit Grand Prix.”
The QMMF President described receiving the award
as ‘a great moment and a big surprise for the Losail
circuit’. Al-Attiyah said, “It is really big for us after years
of hard work and shows that we have done our best to
reach this moment. We started from zero, and to receive
this is a real ‘zero to hero’ achievement.”
At the award ceremony Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo
Ezpeleta, summarised the challenges involved in
holding the first ever night Grand Prix.
“When we first had a proposal to hold a Grand Prix in
Qatar, we were asked if it was possible to hold a race in
the desert,” he said.
“But we were convinced by the passion of the Qatari
federation, and particularly their president. Then we
thought about whether it was possible to hold the race
at night, and once again we were convinced.”
12 QatarSport Q5.09
Spies makes his mark
A new star of superbikes was crowned in Doha when Ben Spies, the 24-year ‘Texan
Tornado’, won both races in the second round of the 2009 Superbike World
Championship at the Losail International Circuit in March.
In both races, the Yamaha rider edged his Ducati rival Noriyuki Haga from Japan
into second place with the veteran Italian rider Max Biaggi, riding for Aprilia,
completing the double 1-2-3 sequence.
“Overall, it was a great weekend for me and my team,” said Spies, who broke the
lap record for the Losail track in the second race. “I would say it was a perfect
weekend. It won’t always be like this so we must enjoy this. Later in the season, we
could be playing catch-up. You never know.”
Spies admits that it could be tough chasing the more experienced Haga, the
points leader in the title race after a win and second place [behind Spies] in the
opening races at Phillip Island, Australia. “It’s going to be hard making up points on
him if he (Haga) keeps finishing second,” Spies said.
Meanwhile, in the Supersport race, Irish rider Eugene Laverty, racing for Honda
took the title in a last gasp finish with Andrew Pitt of Australia, to complete a
memorable weekend of racing on the desert track - one made all the more satisfying
for the event-holders by the plaudits from Paulo Flammini, CEO of Infront Motor
Sport, the body that organises World Superbike Championship.
Speaking at a press conference, with Nasser Bin Khalifa Al-Attiyah, President of
the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) before the event, Flammini said:
“Five years ago, there was no motorbike culture in this country. There was a car
culture and car events, but two-wheel races were not here. In less than five years,
Losail has become the hub for bike events. This has been an amazing growth.”
The Italian added: “Losail now hosts World Superbike Championship rounds, the
MotoGP races, GP2 events and many other motor sport events. And all of this has
happened in less then five years.
“When I first came here in 2004, QMMF had hired people from overseas to run
their events. Now, they do it themselves with help coming directly from their own
staff. I would say Nasser has done an amazing deal of work in very little time. It has
been a special effort all these years. We have teams taking part in pre-season testing
also so it is not just about racing here.”
Losail is currently the only circuit in the region with both FIA and FIM licenses for
car and bike racing and, according to Al Attiyah, the track will eventually be upgraded
to cater for Formula One.
q2.09 QatarSport 13
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Seeing is Believing
SCHOOLS OLYMPIC DAY IS MORE THAN JUST A SPORTING EVENT. IT IS A
NATIONAL PROJECT WHICH IS CHANGING QATAR’S SPORTING CULTURE
It’s been praised at the highest levels of the Olympic
movement, recognised by government ministers for its
social benefits and grasped as a new talent identification
tool by national federations.
Yet proof that Qatar’s Schools Olympic Day programme
is working could be judged simply by experiencing the
vibrancy of the action over the two days of competition
finals at the Aspire Indoor Hall.
Here, not only were the students bursting with
enthusiasm to do their best across a raft of team and
individual sports, but the seats were packed with proud
parents, relatives and friends, both locals and residents,
cheering on the youngsters.
QOC Vice-President HE Sheikh Saoud Bin Ali Al-
Thani has called Schools Olympic Day an ‘historic
programme’ in the development of Qatar sport and it is
not stretching the point to say that after just two years the
event has become an institution.
Organised by the QOC in co-operation with the
Ministry of Education, it has provided a focus for the
promotion of sport, health, fitness and culture in Qatar.
Although similar school programmes are run in countries
such as Brazil and Holland, Qatar has uniquely combined
the sports programme with socially conscious themes such
as this year’s ‘Sport and Environment’ campaign.
The challenge now is to keep up the momentum.
For the 2008/09 programme, which ran from November
2008 to March 2009, hundreds of schools and thousands
of boys and girls, aged between 6 and 18, took part in nine
disciplines: five individual sports (athletics, swimming,
gymnastics, fencing and table tennis) and four team sports
(basketball, handball, football and volleyball). This is a
14 QatarSport Q2.09
FROM DR BACH
In a written message sent by Professor Thomas
Bach, chairman of the German Olympic
Committee (GOC) to the QOC, the highranking
Olympic official acclaimed the Schools
Olympic Day programme as an exceptional event
serving both school students and the community.
In the letter, the GOC chief praised the
warm hospitality he received during his visit
to the Schools Olympic Day finals and the
QOC’s organisational skills in staging the
event. The former Olympic fencing gold
medalist also applauded the high-standard of
sports facilities available at the Aspire Zone,
describing Qatar as a sports hub in the region.
While in Doha, Dr Bach signed a cooperative
sports agreement with the QOC on behalf
of the GOC, which he called an historic
event with benefits for both countries.
The QOC was honoured by Dr Bach’s presence
for the second edition of Schools Olympic Day,
said QOC General Secretary Sheikh Saoud,
who promised that the QOC would submit a
report to the IOC on the event’s progress.
great response from the schools since Qatar’s entire school
population is little more than 120,000 students.
Not surprisingly, given the IOC’s mission to increase
youth participation in sport, the initiative is being
monitored with great interest by the Olympic movement.
IOC member Dr Rania Elwani of Egypt was present to
see the final day of the girls competition while Dr Thomas
Bach, President of the German Olympic Committee, and
Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee
was at Aspire as a guest of the QOC for both days.
Bach said the Schools Olympic Day was not only
compatible with the IOC’S launch of the Youth Olympic
Games, to be held in Singapore 2010, but that he would
like to take the idea back to Germany to maximize youth
involvement in sport.
“The idea has to come from the heart and Qatar
has done it right by creating this concept of sports for
schoolchildren,” Bach said.
Meanwhile the social value of the Schools Olympic Day
and, in particular, the encouragement of a sporting culture
for girls, was highlighted by Mozah Rabea, a supervisor
of the Schools Olympic Day swimming event for girls.
Rabea said that the programme had ignited a new interest
in sport among women and girls sport and provided an
arena for the identification of talented athletes who could
later form part of Qatar’s national teams.
This is not just wishful thinking. Qatar’s Armenian
gymnastics coach Edward Gerongyan says that he “has
been able to unearth some promising gymnasts” in the
first two editions of Schools Olympic Day. Gerongyan
and other federation scouts are now looking forward to
the next edition to identify even more talent.
Q2.09 QatarSport 15
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“Awareness is increasing year after year”
Khaleel Al-Jabir, Director of the QOC’s Sports Affairs Department, reflects
on the success of the second edition of Schools Olympic Day
What was your greatest satisfaction about this
year’s Schools Olympic Day?
This year’s Schools Olympic Day was the second
edition of the event we launched in season
2007-2008. Thousands of children from different
schools performed as athletes for a few months,
shared common goals and learned more about sport
and how to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
It was a great pleasure to see these kids, fully
supported by their parents, participating in this
national effort, which is increasing awareness about
sport and having a positive effect on people’s lives.
Seeing the team effort put together by the teachers,
the national federations, the technical staff, the staff of Qatar Olympic
Committee and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, as
well as all the partners, also gave us enormous satisfaction.
There was a greater participation this year in our cultural and
educational programme which focused on ‘Sport and the Environment’
and the Exhibition that was held during the Finals day was fantastic.
Will you increase the number of sports in future editions?
We are planning to increase the number of sports to maximise the
number of school children taking part. Our focus will be on Olympic
Sports but we might consider other popular sports such as karate,
billiards and snooker. It is important that any sport we consider should
have a national federation in Qatar, existing facilities as well as a good
level of participation in schools. We might also consider adding some
traditional sports that are diminishing in our society. We had some of
these sports inserted into our cultural programme that ran in parallel
to the sports one.
How many schools and students participated this year?
This year’s Schools Olympic Day (2008-2009) reached 796 schools
with 8,340 students participating in the preliminary sport competition.
During the Finals, there were 2,085 participants – 65 per cent male,
35 per cent female. A total of 110 schools (for both boys and girls)
participated in the preliminaries of the cultural programme [related
to ‘Sport and the Environment’] and the Exhibition.
How soon can you envisage the talent identification side of Schools
Olympic Day helping Qatar’s national teams?
Soon enough. We already have some national federations, such as
athletics, fencing and volleyball engaging in exercises that aim at
developing talents discovered or unearthed at the Schools Olympic
Day competitions. It is a long-term plan to have Schools Olympic
Day athletes having an impact on the various national teams. It is
well-known that the school system is the main feeder
for any talent programme, and by setting up this
competition, which combines the sporting aspect
with the educational one, we are setting up a healthy
platform for this process to take its natural course.
How aware are Qataris of the Schools Olympic
The awareness is increasing year after year. The
school children have a great effect on their parents
and knowing that families are the main pillar of
society, we hope that this will have a spiral effect
going forward. The vision of the Schools Olympic
Day is to inspire young people in Qatar to participate in sport and
adopt a healthy lifestyle. It aims to educate, engage and influence
young people, while motivating them to play an active role in the
local community. We are aware of the challenge that spreading such
a message in the community can pose, especially with the increasing
popularity of modern technology and the kind of negative impact that
can have on children (excessively watching TV, video games, etc…).
We hope to spread a message that encourages the creation of a
balance between all these activities and hope that sport will be the
dominant part. We can’t and we won’t stop children from playing
video games or watching TV because they can also add certain values
to the lives of our children, but we will try to encourage them and
their parents to practice more sport in a healthy way.
What has been the feedback of the IOC and National Olympic
Committees to Schools Olympic Day?
We have presented our project to the IOC and to other international
partners in many events. All the feedback has been very positive and
mostly filled with admiration. The main objectives of this programme
coincide with the ones of the newly established Youth Olympic Games.
IOC members are visiting Qatar to witness the event every year and
this is a great sign of support and approval for us. We have made
contact with many NOCs with similar programmes and sharing our
ideas and experiences. This positive network will strengthen our event
in the future and will definitely draw more participation from NOCs
around the world.
What themes will you develop for future editions?
Many themes have come to the minds of the Steering Committee
Members. Sport & Culture, Sport & Technology, Sport & Peace
and Sport & Nutrition are only some of these themes. Any theme
that is adopted will aim to enrich the lives of our children in Qatar,
and we hope will be reflected in our society in general. Through this
programme, we are aiming to build a strong base for the future.
16 QatarSport Q2.09
QATAR HAS LODGED ITS BID TO HOST
THE 2022 FIFA WORLD CUP FINALS.
NOW IT MUST COMPETE AGAINST 11
OTHER NATIONS TO STAGE THE SINGLE,
BIGGEST SPECTATOR EVENT IN
Qatar’s bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup has the
potential to make sporting history and transform the
world’s understanding of the Middle East, according to
the chairman of the bid team’s organising committee.
During an assured performance in front of the press to
announce the key members of the Qatar 2022 bid
committee, the Emir’s son HE Sheikh Mohammed Bin
Hamad Al-Thani put his country’s case in a powerful
historical context - and set the tone for Qatar’s 2022 World
“We believe it is time to bring the World Cup to the
Middle East for the very first time,” he said. “A World Cup
in Qatar in 2022 would be the first global sports event to
be hosted in the region. What could be more fitting than
it being the world’s favourite game that achieves this truly
“Our bid truly epitomises FIFA’s slogan ‘For the Game,
For the World’. The World Cup in the Middle East would
bring so many positive things to our region including
friendships and understanding between competitors and
spectators that would extend far beyond the World Cup
itself. A World Cup held in the Middle East would provide
an opportunity for greater understanding and unity
between the Arab and Western worlds.
“It would allow the rest of the world to gain a true
picture of Arab culture and hospitality...and provide a
symbol of hope and inspiration for this whole region.”
Supporting the young royal in the bid team is Sheikh
Hamad Bn Khalifa Al-Thani, President of the Qatar
Football Association, who will be a member of the Qatar
18 QatarSport Q2.09
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Left: Qatar fans show their
passion for the national team
at a 2010 World Cup qualifier
in Doha. Right: Bid chairman
HE Sheikh Mohammed
Bin Hamad Al-Thani with
FIFA President Sepp Blatter
after the Qatari delegation
submitted its bid registration
form in March
2022 board. The CEO of the bid will be Hassan Al-
Thawadi, who is currently Director of the Legal
Department at the Qatar Investment Authority and Legal
Counsel of Al-Sadd Sports Club.
The bid team acknowledges there are questions to be
answered and obstacles to be overcome before moving to
the next stage of the bid process, but HE Sheikh
Mohammed hinted at the scale of the ambition when he
stressed that Qatar would not try to move the event from
the summer months.
“We won’t be pressing for a different window to host
the event,” he said. “We have 13 years in which to work on
infrastructure, which can offer ideal conditions. We know
that FIFA will not change the dates for us, but...we have
plans that will help us deal with the hot weather in those
“A stadium with controlled temperature is the answer
to the problem [and] we have already set in motion the
process. We have other plans up our sleeves as well.”
Replying to a question on the lessons learnt from
Qatar’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics, HE Sheikh
Mohammed said, “We would not have made the bid had
we lacked faith in our capabilities. Moreover, the Olympics
and World Cup are two entirely different entities. We have
certainly learnt a few things from the abortive bid and the
experience will certainly prove to be useful this time.”
By bidding for 2022 rather than 2018, the bid chairman
added that the committee was taking a ‘slow but steady
approach’ - one that can respond to all the technical
requirements demanded by FIFA. Issues of stadium size
and venue location, for example, can be addressed in that
time frame, says Dr Athanasios Batsilas, the Technical
Director at QFA, who was part of the delegation from
Qatar that met FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Secretary
General Jerome Valcke in Switzerland to submit the
completed bid registration form in March.
“For the World Cup, FIFA has a minimum requirement
of 10-12 Stadiums. If we host the event we need to build
three to four new stadiums,” Dr Batsilas said. “You need
also to take into account the FIFA requirements related to
the opening ceremony that it needs a stadium with 60,000
spectators and for all group matches a minimum of 40,000
seats.” For this, he added, existing stadia in Doha, and in
neighbouring towns Al Wakrah and Al Khor could be
used and updated.
HE Sheikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the
man tasked with leading Qatar’s mission, is confident that
Qatar is already on the fast track in its development and
will “emerge as the perfect host to the FIFA World Cup”.
Certainly, the young royal is no stranger to pressure
situations. In December 2006, he played a key role in the
Opening Ceremony of the 15th Asian Games in Doha
when he rode a black Arabian stallion up a 50-metre ramp
to light the Asian Games cauldron.
On a hazardous, rain-swept night, it was a moment of
calculated audacity that won much admiration. Now,
there is a much more arduous job to be done - one with an
even greater prize at its end.
“This is a great moment for Qatar and the Middle East
and I know that our bid will be enthusiastically supported
by football fans of all ages across the whole region,” he
said. “We are extremely passionate about football and the
region is craving for an event like this to take place. Qatar
has the ability to host a prestigious tournament such as the
World Cup finals and we look forward to presenting our
bid to the international football community.
“We have the total support of the government. We
have great facilities and you will see from our record that
we present what we promise,”
The next important date for the bid committee is
December 11, 2009, when it will sign the solidarity
agreement. The date for the final bid submission to FIFA
is May 14, 2010.
Q2.09 QatarSport 19
o o o o o o o o o
ESTABLISHED IN 2005,
QATAR’S GLOBAL SPORT
FUND PROJECT IS
PROMOTING SPORT AS A
MEDIUM TO CHANGE THE
LIVES OF YOUNGSTERS
FOR THE BETTER
20 QatarSport Q2.09
The Global Sport Fund (GSF), the Doha-based
joint initiative between the United Nations Office
on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Qatar
Olympic Committee, launched its third GSF
international youth camp at the Al Maadi
Olympic Centre in Cairo, Egypt in February.
Offering young people opportunities to
interact and develop their potential through sport
over four days, this was a sports camp with a
difference. Around 200 boys and girls, from the
11-18 age group, took part in football and
volleyball training clinics and friendly
multi-national team competitions at the camp.
The competitors scored points not only for
winning, but for “fair play”, teamwork and
conduct. The youngsters learnt important life
skills in classroom discussions focusing on playing
by the rules, respect for others and awareness of
the harm of drug use and anti-social behaviour.
Kicking off the camp programme, Wilfried
Lemke, Special Adviser to the Secretary General
on Sport for Development and Peace,
congratulated the hosts and QOC on behalf of
Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General.
“Sport is the best way to spread the values of
peace in the world, and sport is an international
language,” he said. “Sport allows people to meet
and play together, everywhere and at any time.”
Also present was QOC Secretary General,
Sheikh Saoud, who encouraged the participants to
keep learning and to set a lasting example to their
peers back home. Coaches too, he said, can learn
how to become role models to young people.
The camp trainees came from as far afield as
Azerbaijan, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, the Islamic
Republic of Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar,
Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan,
United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
The programme ended with the appointment
of GSF Youth Ambassadors and GSF Coach
Ambassadors at a special gala award ceremony.
The GSF will now help set up after-school sport
activities and mini-camps in the participants’
home countries to keep up the good work.
Previous camps held in Lebanon and Qatar
brought together participants from countries in
conflict. The successes of these initiatives helped
to develop the programme in Cairo.
PrAISE For GSF
The Manager of the United Nations Drugs
and Crime (UNODC) Prevention Regional
Office for the Middle East and North Africa
has acclaimed the role played by Qatar in
establishing the Global Sport Fund’s sport
and peace initiative - and has called for
other states to follow its lead.
“I am honoured to express my
admiration to the State of Qatar, as
represented by the Qatar Olympic
Committee, for organising the third youth
camp, and following the event through
from beginning to end,” Mohammed Abdul
Aziz said in an interview with ‘Qatar Sport’.
“I see it as an achievement to be added to
their list of successes.
“I wish all the countries of the world
would follow this example in adopting the
concept of sports for protection from drugs
Mr. Abdul Aziz said the GSF
programme now extends beyond Qatar
and the Middle East and reaches out to
the world with a message of tolerance to
trainees from different backgrounds and
“I was pleased with the positive
interaction of the participants and their
sincere desire to apply in their own
countries the lessons learnt from this
programme and to be ambassadors carrying
the message of the Global Sport Fund to
their communities,’’ added Mr. Abdu Aziz.
During a feedback session chaired by
the Cairo-based UNODC official, the
youngsters and coaches gave a resounding
endorsement of the GSF approach.
“We are amazed by the learning skills we
picked up through the medium of sport,”
said one participant. “We never imagined
this was possible. We were truly given a
sporting chance to develop our potential as
Mr Abdul Aziz concluded by praising
‘the input and intensive efforts’ made by the
QOC in partnership with the UNODC and
revealed that the UN body was about to
launch a special programme for the children
When Carl Lewis talks about the
power of sport to change lives
people tend to sit up and take
During a three-day visit to Doha in
April, the nine-times Olympic gold
medal winner expressed his
admiraton for Qatar’s sporting
progress - and was impressed by
the scope and objectives of the
Global Sport Fund and the
potential of Schools Olympic Day
to build a sporting society.
Lewis, however, was in Doha on a
mission to inspire another group
of young people - those with
disabilities. On the invitation of
Qatar’s Shafallah Center for the
‘Fourth International Forum for
Children with Special Needs’
under the patronage of Her
Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint
Nasser Bin Abdullah Al-Missned,
Lewis discussed his work with
‘Best Buddies’ a US-based
programme for people with
Applauding the important role
played by Her Highness in
humanitarian fields - and noting
her capability and determination
to effect change - Lewis said he
was proud that she had chosen
Best Buddies to work with the
Shafallah Center on new initiatives
for disabled children. “I think
people should realise that those
with disabilities are like everyone
else and should treat them
equally,” Lewis said. “They have
challenges and we have our own
challenges as well, and our
objective is to integrate them into
the society.” Based on his
experience with Best Buddies,
Lewis said it was important to
establish strong relationships with
disabled people of all ages and
backgrounds, and especially
university students who have a
strong desire and drive to achieve.
Q2.09 QatarSport 21
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PRIX DOHA 2009
”GREAT OLYMPIANS LIKE ANDREAS
THORKILDSEN AND ALLYSON FELIX USE THE
”QATAR ATHLETICS SUPER GRAND PRIX AS THE
SPRINGBOARD FOR THEIR SEASON
22 QatarSport Q2.09
Here’s a question for fans of Olympic track and field.
What do the following individual gold medal winners
from the 2008 Beijing Olympics have in common?
From the men’s competition, the chosen few are Wilfred
Bungei (Kenya/800m), Brmin Kiprop Kipruto
(Kenya/3000m steeplechase), Tomasz Majewski (Poland/
shot put) and Andreas Thorkildsen (Norway/javelin).
From the women’s, we have Nancy Jebet (Kenya/1500m)
and Maurren Higa Maggi (Brazil/long jump).
If the answer isn’t obvious, perhaps it will help to add
some relay gold medal winners from Beijing 2008 to the
list: Michael Frater and Nesta Carter (Jamaica) in the
men’s 4 x 100m, LaShawn Merrit (USA) in the men’s 4 x
400m, and Allyson Felix and Natasha Hastings (USA) in
the women’s 4 x 400m.
The common denominator, if you haven’t guessed, is
that all these gold medal-winning athletes have competed
at the Qatar Athletics Super Grand Prix. In fact, they all
took part at last year’s event, as did five silver medallists,
five bronze medallists and numerous finalists from the
2008 Beijing Games.
The stellar list highlights the quality of the championship,
which is now in its 12th year and has grown into the preeminent
track and field event in the region and Asia.
The IAAF’s Super Grand Prix category is second only to
the Golden League events, which take place in six European
cities and is equal in status to showcase meetings in
London, Monaco, Lausanne and Stockholm.
Next year, of course, there will be a change in format
with the launch of the IAAF Diamond League, which
could see Doha join the China Golden Grand Prix as Asia’s
sole representatives on the new elite circuit.
At the time of writing, Qatar’s entry had been approved
by the IAAF, subject to contractual ratification. But
whatever happens this year, the Qatar Association of
Athletics Federation (QAAF) remains committed to
hosting a truly world-class event.
Around 200 top-quality athletes made it to last year’s
Super Grand Prix and the new QAAF president, Abdullah
Ahmed Al-Zaini, who heads the organising committee of
the Qatar Athletics Super Grand Prix 2009, urged his team
to redouble their efforts to ensure that this year’s event was
Al-Zaini stressed the importance of maintaining the
event’s high standards in line with Qatar’s other major
international sporting spectacles - and this year’s event
succeeded in presenting another feast of athletics for the
Qatar Sports Club crowd.
Qatar’s 3,000m steeplechase world champion Saif
Saaeed Shaheen was set take part after more than two years
out with injury, and he was joined by numerous stars from
around the globe who have made the Qatar Athletics
Super Gand Prix a regular date in their diary.
Indeed, for many of the world’s best runners, jumpers
and throwers, the season begins in Doha.
Although Doha is not the first World Athletic Tour
event of the season, it is considered the best test of early
season form for athletes from across the world. As Allyson
Felix said last year, “I’ve run three meets this season, but
my season will officially begin in Doha.”
Doha is also a great indicator of things to come. In
2007, the Croat women’s high jumper Blanka Vlasic, put
on a show that enthralled the Doha crowd and won her
the ‘Athlete of the Meet’ award as she took a tilt at the
Although she narrowly missed with three jumps at
2.10m, the performance pointed the way towards her
gold-medal winning performance at the world
championships in Osaka, Japan, three months later.
In 2008, the best athlete award was won by America’s
Allyson Felix who achieved a 100m and 400m gold medal
double in Doha for the second successive year and went on
to win gold and silver in Beijing (see page 24-25).
But perhaps most encouraging for the organisers is the
way in which top athletes are now forging a deeper
relationship with Qatar itself. Norway’s double Olympic
gold medal javelin star, Andreas Thorkildsen, has competed
at the last three Super Grand Prix meetings in Doha and
broke the 90m barrier for the first time in 2006 event.
This year, he and his coach set up a two-week spring
training camp in Doha to work on technical details of his
event as part of his preparation for the new season - the
first time that the world champion has chosen Qatar for
Thorkildsen had formerly trained in South Africa, but
took a closer look at Qatar when he discovered what the
country had to offer in terms of facilities during the 2008
Super Grand Prix. “Qatar is a great country,” adds
Thorkildsen. “I like the hospitality and the weather.”
The Olympian has even had time to pass on some of his
knowledge to the youngsters at the Aspire Academy, where
he set up his base. “Here at Aspire they (the students) have
all the expertise and facilities to make it,” Thorkildsen said.
“They are really well set to become top athletes.”
Thorkildsen’s focus this year will be on a gold medal at
the World Championships in Berlin but like so many
athletes, the fruits of his winter training programme will
first be revealed in Doha.
“Of course Berlin is the big highlight, but my first goal
is the Super Grand Prix in Doha”, he said.
“It is always interesting to see how I perform here. This
sets my expectations for the rest of the season.”
From the top: Beijing
2008 gold medallists who
competed at last year’s
Qatar Athletics Super
Grand Prix - Andreas
Wilfred Bungei (Kenya),
and Allyson Felix (USA)
Q2.09 QatarSport 23
STAR ALLYSON FELIX
WILL RESTART HER
GOLD AT THE QATAR
GRAND PRIX IN DOHA
When Allyson Felix hangs up her spikes at the end
of her running career she wants to return to the
vocation she trained for as a teenager at college.
The likeable American sprinter qualified as an
elementary school teacher and says she will be
excited to swap the running track for the classroom
when the time comes.
But first she wants to teach the world a different
lesson - that a world-class sprinter can run like the
wind without any doubts about the natural source
of the speed.
The 23-year-old, described by the US women’s
head athletics coach as a ‘quiet storm’ for her modest
yet competitive style, has campaigned tirelessly
against doping in her sport and is a role model for a
new generation of American women athletes and
sports fans all over the world.
Along with the US men’s sprint champion Tyson
Gay, she is a member of the US Anti-Doping
Agency’s ‘ Project Believe’, a long-term voluntary
testing programme, which aims to dispel any doubts
about their performances.
“I see it as a responsibility to prove I am clean,”
Felix says. “It’s important that the fans can believe in
what they are watching. I don’t want anyone to have
any doubts about what I achieve.”
Certainly, there can be few question marks about
her running talent, which has been acclaimed on
Doha’s Qatar Sport Club track over the last four
years as Felix has travelled the world in pursuit of
The Californian first came to the fore in 2003
when she broke the US high-school record for the
200m. Just weeks later, she turned in an even more
impressive performance at Mexico City’s Olympic
Stadium where she recorded a new world record of
22.11 seconds in the under-20 category.
As the first American track athlete to enter the
professional ranks straight out of high school, she
was soon competing in the world’s most prestigious
events. She won silver at the 2004 Athens Olympic
Games, aged just 18, and in 2005 - the year of her
first appearance at the Super Grand Prix in Doha -
clinched 200m gold at the World Championships in
Athens. Reaching the top at such a tender age could
have unsettled a lesser character, but this daughter of
a Baptist minister and schoolteacher has responded
positively to the fast-moving changes in her life.
“My family has motivated me and kept me
grounded throughout my entire career and my
coach (Bobby Kersee) has also helped me by teaching
me about my different events. He has helped me
grow,” she says.
Under Kersee’s guidance, the Qatar Athletics
Super Grand Prix in Doha has become a regular
entry in Felix’s event diary. In 2008 she scorched the
24 QATARSPORT Q2.09
o o o o o o o o o
Allyson Felix poses
in front of Beijing’s
Bird’s Nest Stadium
before last year’s
“I WANT TO WIN AT LEAST ONE
INDIVIDUAL GOLD MEDAL
IN THE OLYMPICS BEFORE I
LEAVE THE SPORT”
Qatar Sports Club’s 100m track with a meeting record
time of 10.93 seconds, breaking the 11 seconds barrier for
the first time in her career. After pocketing the 100m gold,
Felix returned to the track 80 minutes later to make it a
double winning the 400m race in 49.83 seconds. “I always
like going to Qatar,” she tells Qatar Sport. “I really like the
stadium and I was really pleased with how I opened my
season there last year.”
Such a win on a warm night in Doha gave her renewed
confidence for the season, which climaxed at the Beijing
Olympics in August, where many predicted that Felix
would claim the 200m crown. By her own high standards,
however, a gold medal in the 400m relay in Beijing failed
to compensate for silver in the individual 200m.
Felix weighs up the pros and of her Olympic experience
in typically balanced style. “I think overall my performance
was decent, but I don’t feel like I accomplished my goals
although I still enjoyed the overall experience,” she says.
“Winning as a team and as an individual is just a
different feeling. In a relay, it’s a team effort, we work
together and it’s great to be out there and have people to
“In an individual event, you work all year round to win
an individual title so it feels really wonderful to win and
know you’ve accomplished your goal. They are both really
gratifying in their own way. “
All in all, the American track and field team left Beijing
with a worse-than-expected seven gold medals, but Felix is
far from downhearted. “I think that we are really strong
and have great depth,” she says.
“Everyone is motivated and even though we did not
have the showing that was expected of us last year I believe
that our depth will continue to grow.” Of course, Felix and
the US team have another opportunity to shine at the
major track and field event of the year, the Berlin IAAF
World Championships in August.
Next year will also be a special one because she is set to
take part in the inaugural season of the IAAF Diamond
League, which, at the time of writing, was awaiting Doha’s
confirmation among the host cities.
The Diamond League aims to bring top-class athletics
to new audiences and Felix is confident that the new
format will be “exciting for the sport and the fans”.
But looming over the horizon is the one that got away
- Olympic individual gold. “I want to win at least one
individual gold medal in the Olympics before I leave the
sport and hopefully I will have left the sport with a
successful career,” she says of her long-term ambitions.
And when her glory days on the track are over, she’ll
start her teaching career in earnest. Felix has plenty to offer
today’s restless youth: patience, self-discipline and a strong
will to win - without breaking the rules. So what advice
would she give to young, female athletes looking to make
a career in sport? “I would tell them to get their priorities
in order and to make a plan for what they want to do - and
no matter what, always make sure to have fun.”
Q2.09 QATARSPORT 25
It’s only eight years old, but there’s no question that the
Tour Of Qatar has developed into one of the most
important events in professional cycling’s calendar.
Held every February, the Tour acts as a season-opener
for some of the top European riders, who view the
700-kilometre road race as the perfect way to get back in
gear after a lengthy winter’s break.
The Tour may not boast any mountains, but its short,
flat and fast stages are an ideal way for riders to start their
seasonal preparation. When you also factor in the good
weather and superb after-race facilities, it’s no surprise that
2009’s edition saw 135 riders (17 teams) from Europe, the
Americas and Asia competing in it.
In 2009, the reputation of the Tour was underlined by
the presence of star names such as Mario Cipollini, Robbie
McEwen, Mark Cavendish and Tom Boonen - the man
who has virtually made the race his own in recent years.
But the Tour is not only a season-opener for established
stars. It’s also a landmark event in the region - with racers
from Iran, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE taking part.
Of course, the success of the Tour Of Qatar is not just
about timing and weather. It also happens to benefit from
first-class organisational and marketing support.
Qatar, via bodies such as the Qatar Cycling Federation,
is now firmly entrenched as a world leader in the hosting
of professional sports events. And in this case, it can also
call on in-depth knowledge from the world of professional
The Qatar Cycling Federation
joined forces with the Amaury
Sport Organisation (ASO),
organisers of the Tour de
France, to make the Tour of
Qatar a spectacular success
cycling. Its partner in putting on the Tour and the
inaugural Ladies Tour of Qatar which followed the men’’s
event this year, is Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) - the
sports marketing group behind a number of world-class
cycling events including the Tour De France (TDF).
Also involved is cycling legend Eddy Merckx who
created and founded the Qatar Tour in partnership with
its local organisers - and now acts as a Tour consultant
aided by experts such as the TDF’s Jean-Marie Leblanc.
Prior to this year’s race, Tour De France director
Christian Prudhomme gave his own assessment of how
important the Qatar event had become from a cyclist’s
perspective. “Cycling champions come here looking for
more than a little sunshine,” he confirmed. “It is the
intensity of the competition that attracts them to Qatar.
Now a permanent fixture on the sporting calendar, the
Tour of Qatar has become a landmark event, a benchmark
reference for sprint specialists. Tactical endeavours
terminate more often than not in a massive fight for victory
in the final straight line.”
It’s not just the organisers and professional riders who
are passionate about the Tour - so are the hardcore fans.
One cycling blogger neatly encapsulated this when he
talked about the way blue-riband events in Australia,
California and Qatar provide the inspiration for
recreational cyclists too. “I and many others that I know
use these races and the follow up video as motivation for
26 QatarSport Q2.09
o o o o o o o o o
our own training and time-trialling indoors throughout
the winter months,” he said. In other words, Qatar has
found its way into the rhythm and consciousness of the
international cycling community.
So what is the rationale for the race - and how is it paid
for? Well, like all sporting activity in Qatar, the Tour is
part of a joined-up strategy, which is closely-aligned to the
Gulf State’s nation-building ambitions. Just as with
spectacles like the 2006 Doha Asian Games and the Sony
Ericsson WTA Championship, The Tour is designed to
encourage sporting activity at home and attract tourists
and businesses from abroad. It is also part of a roadmap,
which Qatar hopes will eventually help it secure the job of
hosting the Summer Olympic Games - a much-cherished
ambition made achievable by the success of Doha 2006.
As a result of this, it is the Qatari government which
underwrites the cost of the Tour Of Qatar - a kind of statesponsored
marketing strategy. However the government is
also supported in its endeavours by the Qatari business
community - with banks, telcos and airlines just some of
the sectors which lend support.
The latest edition of the Cycling Tour, for example, saw
the Aspire Academy for Sports Excellence in Doha sign an
agreement with the Qatari Cycling Federation to become
a sponsor. “At Aspire we have excellent relations with all
national federations and associations,” explained Ali Salem
Afifa, Chief Administration Officer at Aspire.
“We are always looking at ways to strengthen these and
work on providing support, as part of the country’s vision
of establishing Qatar as a regional and international sports
hub. Therefore, it was a natural step to provide support to
the Cycling Tour of Qatar, which has become one of the
most prominent cycling tours around the world.”
Underlining the strong links between elite and emerging
sport in Qatar, Aspire’s sponsorship of the Tour involved
both financial support and a Best Emerging Athlete Award.
The Award, which came in the form of a Blue Shirt, “was
designed to show appreciation for newcomers; to motivate
them, enhance their performance and recognise hard
work,” said Afifa.
“This award will expand to include all upcoming major
sports which Aspire might be part of logistically - or by
providing some financial and athletic support.”
Qatar is very progressive in the arena of women’s sport
- which is why the QCF and its ASO partners also
introduced a women’s race to the Cycling Tour this year.
And this was something that Aspire was also keen to tap
into. In tandem with the main event, Aspire held a fun
race for its young female students, as part of its ongoing
efforts to introduce cycling to this group.
Of course, having a best of breed partner like ASO on
board means the commercial opportunities stretch well
beyond domestic sponsorship deals. Look, for example, at
the Tour De France - which works with towns and business
on route to maximise race-side revenue. Consider also the
cross-promotional benefits that exist as a result of working
within the ASO stable. For a start, having ASO as a backer
means the Tour Of Qatar gains a strong relationship with
major cycling teams (most of whom build their entire
season around performing well in ASO events).
It also brings the Qatar event an alliance with other
For some time, ASO has had strong links with attractive
road races such as Italy’s Giro and Spain’s La Vuelta. Now,
as the result of a pact with US event marketing group
AEG, it has formed a cross-marketing alliance with some
of North America’s leading events. The result is that the
Tour Of Qatar can be marketed alongside the sport’s elite
events. One upshot of this is the potential to increase
broadcast revenues and audiences. This year, for example,
the race was broadcast on Eurosport for the first time - as
the result of a significant new TV rights deal struck by
ASO. Looking ahead, there are many reasons for the Tour
Of Qatar to be optimistic. Eddie Merckx, speaking at the
conclusion of the 2009 race, said there was a chance that
cycling legend Lance Armstrong might compete in Qatar
next year (part of his attempt to win an eighth TDF title).
Not only that, Merckx also predicted that one day Qatar
might even host a stage of the Tour de France. “The signs
are there - more teams want to take part,” he told reporters.
“It’s not for tomorrow, but you can’t count it out. It says
something that Tom Boonen (this year’s Tour winner)
comes each year.”
To The Friends and Family Of Frederiek Nolf
The success of this year’s Cycling Tour Of Qatar was
overshadowed to some extent by the tragic death of Frederiek
Nolf who was found dead in his bedroom prior to stage five.
Nolf, a member of the Topsport Vlaanderen team, was 21-
years-old and a popular member of the cycling fraternity. Out
of respect for Frederiek, fellow riders chose not to compete
during the fifth stage - instead forming a cortege. A ceremony
in memory of Nolf was held afterwards. The Qatar Cycling
Federation and all those involved in the race sent their
heartfelt sympathies to Frederiek’s parents and fiancee. Said
Tour winner Tom Boonen: “We all knew Frederiek, and we
all appreciated him. The entire team, riders and personnel feel
his family’s pain.”
Far left: Tom Bonnen’ (right
in picture) and QuickStep
Rosseler ride in formation
along Doha’s Corniche.
Left: Eddy Merckx (right)
and general director of the
Tour de France, Christian
Prudhomme, look at a map
highlighting the inaugural
Ladies Tour of Qatar, which
followed the men’s event
Q2.09 QatarSport 27
Artistic Gymnastics International Tournament
Qatar International 9- Ball Billiards Tournament
HH The Emir’s Cup Final
Snooker World Championships the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield 19/04/2009
Flora London Marathon London 26/04/2009
Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix sakhir 26/04/2009
HH The Heir Apparent Football Cup Final al Rayyan Sports Club 01/05/2009
Kentucky Derby Churchill Downs 02/05/2009
Qatar Super Grand Prix Athletics Tournament Qatar Sports Club 08/05/2009
Giro d’Italia italy 09/05/2009
HH The Emir Football Cup Final al Rayyan Sports Club 16/05/2009
UEFA Cup Final istanbul 20/05/2009
Rugby Union Heineken Cup Final Murrayfield, Scotland 23/05/2009
French Open roland Garros 24/05/2009
Monaco Formula One Grand Prix Monaco 24/05/2009
Indycar Indianapolis 500 indianapolis 24/05/2009
Arab U14 & U16 Weight Lifting Championship doha 26/05/2009
UEFA Champions League Final rome 27/05/2009
HH The Heir Apparent Handball Cup Final al Gharrafa Sports Club 29/05/2009
FA Cup Final London 30/05/2009
HH The Heir Apparent Volleyball Cup Final al Sadd Sports Club 30/05/2009
NBA Finals USA 04/06/2009
HH The Emir Handball Cup Final al Gharrafa Sports Club 12/06/2009
Le Mans 24-Hour Race Le Mans, France 13/06/2009
Royal Ascot ascot 16/06/2009
US Open Bethsgate State Park, New York 18/06/2009
HE The Emir Volleyball Cup Final al Arabi Sports Club 19/06/2009
Wimbledon Tennis Championships London 22/06/2009
Artistic Gymnastics International Tournament aspire 25/06/2009
Qatar International 9- Ball Billiards Tournament Federation facilities 30/06/2009
Tour de France France 04/07/2009
Events diary - International and Qatar
Q2.09 QatarSport 29
DIET NOW GOES HAND-IN-HAND WITH TRAINING FOR PROFESSIONAL SPORT.
QATAR SPORT TALKS TO THE DIETITIANS WHO ARE WORKING WITH QATAR’S
ELITE AND JUNIOR LEVEL ATHLETES, WHILE TACKLING THE PROBLEM OF
OBESITY IN THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
The demands of professional sport have become so great
that athletes will do all they can to get an edge on their
rivals. With most elite athletes training more than three
times per week - and competing up to three times per week
- the ‘fuel’ for exercise and recovery is of key importance in
this quest for excellence.
Dietitians from both Aspetar and the Aspire Academy in
Doha’s Aspire Zone are dedicated to making sure that sports
men and women are given appropriate dietary advice to do
their absolute best. Significantly, the food and drink
specialists are also using their expertise to educate Qataris in
healthy eating and the benefits of exercise.
“If an athlete’s diet does not provide adequate nutrients,
fuel and hydration for exercise and recovery the athlete will
quickly struggle to keep up with the pace,” Dane Baker,
dietitian at Aspetar, tells Qatar Sport. “Fatigue, increased
risk of injury, lack of motivation and delayed rehabilitation
from injury are all side-effects from poor nutrition.”
The experts agree that since every sport has different
training and competition requirements - with varying
training loads and intensity - there is no single or universal
diet for sports. In fact, each diet needs to be adjusted
according to the specific needs of the athlete, his stage of
growth and the requirement of the sport.
The basics of a training diet, however, are a combination
of science and common sense: most athletes need to eat
three main meals a day with additional snacks, the timings
shaped by training and match schedules.
Carbohydrates are important as they are the preferred
fuel source for exercising muscle. The energy is derived from
fruit, starchy vegetables, breads, pasta and rice, sports drinks
and juice, all of which need to be eaten regularly throughout
the day. The amounts and timing of the eating will depend
on the particular athlete, sport and training regime.
Protein is vital for the development and maintenance of
lean muscle through foods such as meats, lentils, nuts eggs
and dairy products.
Most foods and, in particular, protein foods should be
low fat to help maintain lower body-fat levels. Specialist
foods or supplements can be used if athletes need more
energy or nutrients than their basic diet can provide. These
take the form of sports drinks and food supplements, such
as milk-based drinks for those needing extra energy.
Hydration is another key issue to the training diet. “It is
important that everyone drinks enough to make sure they
are well hydrated, not just in hot climates like Qatar, but
everywhere in the world,” says Christine King, Sports
Dietitian Senior Officer at Aspire Academy. A fluid loss of
two per cent (1.5kg in a 75kg athlete), she says, can reduce
an athlete’s performance by up to 20 per cent.
Aspetar’s Dane Baker adds: “Everyone has different fluid
requirements as some people sweat more than others and it
also depends on how much you are exercising. It often
seems too simple but the majority of athletes I work with in
Qatar do not drink enough and are often dehydrated even
before they start to exercise.”
At the Aspire Academy - the Doha-based elite sports
institute which develops athletes of secondary school age by
integrating training with education and support - the
student athletes train nine times per week. Christine King
30 QATARSPORT Q2.09
o o o o o o o o o
works on a one-on-one basis with boys who have special
dietary needs. They may require increased energy to support
growth and training or require supplements to combat iron
deficiency. Alternatively, they may need to lose fat. Christine
King also has an educational role concerning nutrition and
diet, working with the school curriculum to educate pupils
while providing teachers with information.
Working closely with the Aspire Talent Centre’s primary
school age children’s programme which introduces children
to the fundamentals of physical activity, she provides
nutritional information, education classes and appropriate
snack foods for training sessions. The ‘Aspire Active’ scheme
was established to offer a broad scope of professional fitness
and health-oriented exercise programmes to people in Qatar
outside of elite sport. “In the community programme, they
are working very hard with people to get people more
physically active,” Christine says.
“There is also a dietitian working in this programme
promoting healthy eating as part of the healthy lifestyle.
“The Women’s Fun Run just a few weeks ago saw the
Aspire Active programme recruit the majority of competitors
in a 4.2 kilometre run. I think there were over 1000 woman
involved overall. I took part and it was great to see so many
women out being physically active on a very hot morning!”
Over at Aspetar - Qatar’s specialised orthopaedic and
sports medicine hospital, dietitian Dane Baker works to
consult and educate Qatar athletes on a one-to-one basis on
how to improve performance through better nutrition.
Aspetar also works with the National Sports Medicine
Programme and plans to spread the message of sports
nutrition through visits to the clubs and federations of
Qatar, as well as running education workshops at the
hospital. Aspetar is currently assessing the health status of
school girls in Qatar, which will provide valuable information
to improve the health of the nation.
Dane also works as the sports dietitian for the Qatar
national football team, playing a vital role in the team’s
quest to become a challenging force in global football. In
addition to overseeing all nutritional services, the role
includes assessing player-body composition, developing
suitable diet plans for players and menu planning for team
camps. Aspetar’s department of dietitians are also at the
forefront of research into sports nutrition. “We are currently
assessing the vitamin D intake of subjects as part of a larger
study being conducted here at Aspetar to assess the vitamin
D status of Qatar athletes,” says Dane.
Of course, it is not exactly breaking news that in today’s
society, diets are inclined to include bigger portions of fatty,
processed food. Twin that with society not being as active
any more, and obesity is a growing issue in many developed
societies. The work of sports dietitians in the community is
particularly important considering the obesity epidemic
that is not only taking over the Western world, but is a real
problem in Qatar
“IF THE DIET DOES NOT
NUTRIENTS, FUEL AND
WILL QUICKLY STRUGGLE TO
KEEP UP WITH THE PACE.”
“We are facing the same obesity epidemic as the rest of
the world,” adds Dane Baker. “With the economic growth
and development of Qatar, the fast-food chains and highfat
snack foods soon followed. There is a real lack of
awareness in terms of how these foods should be eaten as
part of our every day diet. It is not uncommon for fast food
to be ordered daily by families. Obesity brings with it many
Indeed, not only does obesity mean carrying extra
weight, so too does it carry with it a host of medical
problems. Overweight people are more likely to develop
Type 2 diabetes and three-to-five times more likely to have
high blood pressure. There is also vast evidence that obesity
is linked to heart attacks, strokes and certain cancers,
including gastro-intestinal cancer and cancer of the uterus
in women. But is Qatar’s obesity problem improving?
“I don’t know that it is,” says Christine King, “In this
climate people struggle understandably to be physically
active. And there are also high-energy dense, highly-sugared
food and drinks freely available in society. Certainly more
people are aware, but international studies have also shown
that people’s perceptions have also changed. Parents often
don’t see their children as obese when in fact they are.”
Contact: ASPETAR, Sport City Street, Near Khalifa
Stadium, P.O. Box 29222. Tel: (974) 413-2000 Email:
firstname.lastname@example.org. Fax: (974) 413-2020
Students at the Aspire
Academy are given dietary
guidance from a specialist
who works on their dietary
needs and educates the
wider school community
THE BEST OF THE BEST IN SPORT… AT A GLANCE
Tiger Woods (men’s
golf), Rafa Nadal
(men’s tennis) and
Nicol Ann David
have retained their
number one spots
World Football - at 11/03/09
World Golf - at 26/03/09
Tiger Woods (USA)
Phil Mickelson (USA)
Sergio Garcia (ESP)
Geoff Ogilvy (AUS)
Padraig Harrington (IRL)
Vijay Singh (FJI)
Camilo Villegas (COL)
Robert Karlsson (SWE)
Henrik Stenson (SWE)
Kenny Perry (USA)
Men’s Tennis - at 23/03/09
Men’s Squash - at 26/03/09
Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Roger Federer (SUI)
Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Andy Murray (GBR)
Nikolay Davydenko (RUS)
Andy Roddick (USA)
Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)
Gilles Simon (FRA)
Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
Gael Monfils (FRA)
Karim Darwish (EGY)
Amr Shabana (EGY)
Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
Ramy Ashour (EGY)
Nick Matthew (ENG)
David Palmer (AUS)
James Willstrop (ENG)
Thierry Lincou (FRA)
Wael El Hindi (EGY)
Peter Barker (ENG)
Women’s Tennis - at 20/04/09
Women’s Squash - at 26/03/09
Dinara Safina (RUS)
Serena Williams (USA)
Elena Dementieva (RUS)
Jelena Jankovic (SRB)
Venus Williams (USA)
Vera Zvonareva (RUS)
Ana Ivanovic (SRB)
Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
Nadia Petrova (RUS)
Nicol David (MAS)
Natalie Grinham (AUS)
Rachael Grinham (AUS)
Natalie Grainger (USA)
Jenny Duncalf (ENG)
Alison Waters (ENG)
Laura Lengthorn-Massaro (ENG)
Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY)
Madeline Perry (IRL)
Isabelle Stoehr (FRA)
Q2.09 QATARSPORT 33
34 QatarSport Q2.09
the big interview
Dorna Sports chief executive Carmelo Ezpeleta
tells Qatar Sport of the impact that last year’s
MotoGP night race at Losail made in the
motorcycling world, and how the launch
of a new 600cc second-tier series in 2010
could well see a Qatari team in competition
The staging of the first ever MotoGP night race at
the Losail Circuit in Qatar in March last year was such
a complex feat of technical organisation that we are not
likely to see it repeated by MotoGP anywhere else in the
world, says Carmelo Ezpeleta, chief executive of Dorna
Sports, the commercial rights-holder of the MotoGP
The event showcased the professionalism and expertise,
which has become the hallmark of the Qatar MotoGP
event since its launch in 2004.
MotoGP experienced the second thrilling instalment
of the night race this season in April, and there is a real
possibility of a Qatar team entering its new Moto2 secondtier
race series next year.
Further expansion in Asia and around the world -
and developing new talent from all regions - is a goal for
MotoGP according to Ezpeleta, but during this season and
next those ambitions will be balanced against stringent
cost-cutting designed to ensure the future of the series in
these tough economic times.
The commitment of Qatar to its night-time MotoGP
showcase, at least, is something that Ezpeleta won’t have to
worry about when he considers the future of the sport,
“There was a great response to last year’s race in Qatar,”
Ezpeleta told Qatar Sport. “From circuits, there have been
a lot of enquiries, but it is so difficult to do [night time
races] nobody else will do it.”
An exceptionally good lighting system was the key to
the success of the race. The word “safety” is a mantra for
Ezpeleta as he talks about race circuits, and at Losail last
year what was required and delivered was a system that lit
“every inch” of the track.
It is the world’s largest permanent sports venue
lighting project – taking that title off Florida’s Daytona
International Speedway – and was developed and built by
US company Musco Lighting in just six months in 2007.
“The Qatari organisers took the decision to do it, took
the proper steps, and made the development very quickly,”
says Ezpeleta.The Dorna chief executive welcomes features
which bring character and personality to races. He is very
clear, however, that any further such developments on the
MotoGP calendar would be dictated first of all by safety
considerations. “In motorcycling, the rider’s body is the
chassis…things must be safe. There will never be a street
circuit in MotoGP!”
Although the motorcycling world is fascinated by the
spectacle created by the lighting technology for the Qatar
MotoGP, the event had already impressed the executives at
Dorna, even before 2007.
Qatar has quickly shifted up through the gears since
first deciding to host a MotoGP, in terms of its building
of facilities and event-organisation capabilities. “This is
the history of sport in Qatar. They built an incredible
racetrack, which is very safe, in just one year. Their
organisation has improved every year MotoGP has been
there,” says Ezpeleta
Q2.09 QatarSport 35
the big interview
I remember when some people
were saying it was impossible. Now
everyone realises it is a great event.
The same sort of resources are
invested as in Italy, Spain or other
parts of the motorcycling world
“Qatar has shown in front of the world that they can
organise sports events and do it well. It understands how
big events - such as the Asian Games in 2006 - impact
on and showcase the country. They show the world its
organisational capability and passion for sport.”
Ezpeleta admits there was reluctance from some to
take MotoGP to the desert nation. However he says the
investment of time and resources in the events by the
country has changed all minds.
“I remember when some people were saying it was
impossible. Now everyone realises it is a great event. The
same sort of resources are invested as in Italy, Spain or
other parts of the motorcycling world.”
Ezpeleta has no hesitation in placing the Qatar
organisers as up with the best in the world. “They are
experts,” he says.
Despite living in a nation without a history of
motorsport to match Italy, Spain, the US, the UK and
other traditional motorsports heartlands, Ezpeleta says the
Qatari people “understand and love motor-racing”.
The obvious next step to take interest in MotoGP
in Qatar to the next level would be a home-grown
competitor - and this may not be too far off. Within the
next two months or so, Ezpeleta says he will be speaking
to interested parties in Qatar about entering a team in the
new Moto2 series.
Moto2 is expected to start next year, replacing
MotoGP’s second-tier 250cc series. Ezpeleta explains
that there are three main aims for the new Moto2 series.
Firstly, he says it will be more competitive, as the technical
rules will enable more riders to have a competitive bike.
Secondly, the bikes will be cheaper, addressing the
increasingly difficult economic conditions that motorsports
teams are operating in. Thirdly, MotoGP hopes that a
combination of the above two will attract more riders and
teams to the championship.
Qatar Motor and Motorcycling Federation (QMMF)
president Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Attiyah has already voiced
his intention to field riders in the Moto2 series in 2010.
The success of the Qatar Endurance Racing International
Junior Team, which won the FIM Superstock World Cup
last September, indicates that a competitive Qatari team is
a realistic possibility.
Of course, MotoGP, like other motorsports series, has
to be careful how it manages the sport over the next year or
two. The series has already been hit by a partial withdrawal
by Japanese manufacturer Kawasaki.
The team was going to pull out completely, but after
negotiations with Dorna, it entered the 2009 season with
just one rider – Italy’s Marco Melandri – as opposed to the
two it had in previous seasons.
However, Ezpeleta says that MotoGP’s “very good
relationships” and constant communication with its
manufacturers have been and will continue to be key to
a successful cost-cutting programme. Measures being put
before the FIM for approval at a meeting in Geneva at
the end of March also include moving Friday morning
practice sessions to Saturday to reduce the total number
of days of the race, reducing the number of kilometres
covered in practice sessions, and requiring teams to use
the same engine in three races and to use only one bike
for each rider.
These are prudent measures but this does not mean
that Dorna will put a brake on its international ambitions.
MotoGP, like so many other sports and series’ is looking
to expand its global footprint. Qatar was the series’ first
step into the Middle East.Future expansion into South
America, South Africa and Eastern Europe is being
targeted, and there is no shortage of demand according
The next new circuit on the calendar looks set to
be Bulgaria in 2012, with which Dorna has signed a
memorandum of understanding, which it hopes to finalise
this summer. In fact, the major factor that limits MotoGP
expansion is the sophisticated technical demands it makes
of the circuits it visits, mostly dictated by safety concerns.
Ezpeleta says that this is the reason the series is currently
not present in South Africa or South America – big
motorsports and motorcycling markets which he says it is
“necessary” for it to be in, and which he hopes to add to
the calendar in the next few years.
Looking forward to this season’s series, Ezpeleta
will not be drawn on the riders or events which he is
most looking forward to watching this season, but one
development he does admit to looking forward to is
an Asian MotoGP winner. “We want to have as wide a
number of nationalities competing, and I would like to see
that as soon as possible!”
36 QatarSport Q2.09