NEWS - Qatar Olympic Committee

NEWS - Qatar Olympic Committee

the official magazine of the qatar olympic committee

Q2.2009 $10



Giving youth a chance


Bidding for the

biggest prize


Elite athletics for Doha






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.



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Designed and produced for the Qatar Olympic Committee by SportBusiness Group, London.

Cover photo: 2009 Qatar MotoGP winner Casey Stoner / Getty Images


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

the Gymnasiade.

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



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

Grand Prix.

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

take part.

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







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,”

says Al-Zaini.

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.




Qatari telecoms company

Qtel has signed a fiveyear

deal to became the

Exclusive Telecommunications

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

for 2009-2012.

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,

Sheikh Saoud.

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.



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

international showcases.

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

Federation’s calendar.

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).


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

pages 20-21).

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.




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

multi-sports dome.

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

international teams.”

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

Players Committee.

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

Djamel Bourras.




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

International Sailing

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.


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.


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.




The Qatar Cycling

Federation launched

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

Khor Corniche.

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

be involved.”

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).




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

in Qatar.

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

Mahboubeh Akhlaqi

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

seriously threatened.

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 diving.

“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






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

and organised.

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

already signed

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.”


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

third place.

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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olympic day

Seeing is Believing



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



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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olympic day

“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

Day programme?

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’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

Cup bid.

“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

historic status?

“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

two months.

“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

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sport FUND










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.


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

and crime.”

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

human beings.”

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

of Gaza.

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

intellectual disabilities.

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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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

equally strong.

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

world record.

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

this purpose.

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

Thorkildsen (Norway),

Wilfred Bungei (Kenya),

and Allyson Felix (USA)

Q2.09 QatarSport 23











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

athletic excellence.

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


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

Olympic Games





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

celebrate with.

“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.”




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


in sport

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

powerful properties.

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

team-mate Sebastien

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







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


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







“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: 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

about nutrition




Tiger Woods (men’s

golf), Rafa Nadal

(men’s tennis) and

Nicol Ann David

(women’s squash)

have retained their

number one spots

World Football - at 11/03/09






































Czech Republic








































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)












34 QatarSport Q2.09

Mr MotoGP

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

to Ezpeleta.

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

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