x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

IOC chief urges Middle East to bid for Olympics

The International Olympic Committee says bids from the Middle East for the showpiece event of the world would be most welcome.

MUSCAT // The International Olympic Committee would be happy to see another Middle Eastern bid for the games, the IOC president said in the latest signal of the sporting world's expanding horizons.

"There is an interest in certain Middle Eastern countries for the games and we would welcome their bids," said Jacques Rogge, while observing the Asian Beach Games on the shores of the Arabian Sea in Oman.

His comments come just a week after Fifa awarded the 2022 World Cup to the tiny Gulf nation of Qatar, which made an unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Olympics.

Dubai is among the cities considering a possible run at the games in 2020.

Qatar's surprise win over heavyweight rivals, including the United States, was seen as further evidence of the growing interest to blaze new ground with the world's biggest sporting events.

The 2016 Olympics in Rio will mark the first time the event is held in South America. This year's World Cup in South Africa was its debut on the continent.

Rogge did not name a specific Mideast city as a possible Olympic candidate, but said there are several sites in the region capable of "good and well organized" bids.

In South Africa earlier this week, Rogge said a new region would be "favored" in a close race to host the games. The Olympics have never been awarded to an African city.

The Gulf, in particular, is no stranger to major sporting events, including top tennis, golf and Formula One events. Qatar will host the Asian Cup football tournament next month.

Plea to move Qatar WC2022 slot to winter months

The Asian Football Confederation has urged FIFA to reschedule the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in the winter months to avoid the desert state's sweltering heat.

The AFC general secretary Peter Velappan said Thursday that cooling down stadiums and training grounds with air conditioners was "not a solution" and warned that some European teams may boycott the World Cup due to the heat.

Velappan's comments echoed those by FIFA executive committee member Franz Beckenbauer, who earlier this month suggested making a one-time change to the European league schedules to allow the Qatar games to be played in winter.