x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Olympics 'could be held here'

Sir Matthew Pinsent urges Abu Dhabi to capitalise on the current global financial crisis and launch a bid to host the 2020 Games.

Sir Matthew Pinsent, the four-time Olympic gold medallist rower, is pictured at the Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi, where he has been staying with his family.
Sir Matthew Pinsent, the four-time Olympic gold medallist rower, is pictured at the Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi, where he has been staying with his family.

ABU DHABI // Sir Matthew Pinsent has urged Abu Dhabi to capitalise on the current global financial crisis by launching a determined bid to host the 2020 Games. Pinsent won rowing gold medals at four successive Olympiads between 1992 and 2004. The recent failure of Doha to make even the shortlist of cities competing to stage the 2016 Games - the IOC were not happy with a proposal to run their four-year jamboree as late in the year as October because of the heat - mattered little to Pinsent as he outlined a powerful case.

"I am sure the IOC would be interested in bringing the Games to the Middle East if the right bid was submitted," said Pinsent, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for four years from 2001 to 2004. "I would be stunned if you suggested that such a bid from this region would be laughed out of court. "The IOC are keen to take the Games to as many different parts of the world as possible and broaden their horizons when looking at potential hosts. If I was still on their committee I would definitely look favourably at a bid from a city like Abu Dhabi.

"I would also love to see a successful bid from India one day and also Africa. The World Cup in 2010 will be a good guide to what can happen in the future in the continent of Africa." There was no official response from Abu Dhabi sporting organisations to Pinsent's comments and there was nobody available for comment at the UAE IOC headquarters in Dubai. Pinsent, 38, who is on holiday here with his wife and three children continuing the links he established with the national airline Etihad before the 2008 Games in Beijing, pointed out that the list of candidates for future Games is dwindling because of the financial problems gripping the world.

"If London [hosts for the 2012 Games] were asked to submit a hosting bid today, they would not be in a position to do so," he said. "The same applies to many other big cities all over the world who are feeling the effects of the financial problems. "If the global recession continues for another three years you would have to ask 'who is going to be prepared to bid for the 2020 Games?' I would suggest the answer would be 'not many'."

Pinsent accepts that there are serious climate issues diluting his assertion that the Games could be staged in the UAE but he argues that they are not insurmountable. "What's wrong with having a marathon at midnight in late September?" he said. "Events where the heat is a worry don't have to take place in the middle of the day. And if you go through the list of Olympic sports, many of them are held indoors, so there will be no problems there.

"And I don't see any problems in a country like the UAE regarding the providing of the various facilities and infrastructure to host the Games. The key to a successful Olympic bid is learning from what bids have been submitted in the past. " @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae