Doha has today (Wednesday) been elected as host of the 2030 Asian Games, while Riyadh has been awarded the 2034 event, as the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) reached a compromise agreement between the fierce political rivals of Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The contest between the two for the showpiece multi-sport event was established in April as the OCA announced that Doha and Riyadh would contest the hosting rights for the 2030 Asian Games.

Doha hosted the 15th Asian Games in December 2006 but Saudi Arabia has never staged an OCA multi-sport event.

Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, have maintained a diplomatic, trade and travel embargo on Qatar since mid-2017. They accuse Doha of supporting terrorism, a claim Qatar strenuously denies as it believes the embargo is instead designed to undermine its sovereignty.

The race for the 2030 Games took another twist yesterday (Tuesday) as OCA president, HE Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, said he would seek to find a compromise at today’s general assembly meeting between what he described as two “great” candidate cities.

Doha ultimately beat Riyadh in a vote of 45 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) in Muscat, Oman, receiving 27 votes, with 10 for Riyadh and eight abstentions. Riyadh was awarded hosting rights to the 22nd Asian Games in 2034.

Before the vote took place, Sheikh Ahmad said he had met with representatives of the two candidate cities, adding they had agreed to a proposal that the city with the highest number of votes would host the 2030 Asian Games and the city that lost out would host 2034. Sheikh Ahmad said he had made the move in the spirit of “friendship, solidarity and unity” and to produce a “win-win” situation.

Before starting the vote under these circumstances, Sheikh Ahmad asked for the support of the 45 NOC delegations and received unanimous approval. “I believe you are making history, and I will be proud to have two Asian Games in West Asia,” Sheikh Ahmad said. “Thank you Asia for your solidarity and coordination.”

Doha’s bid pointed to the fact that 90% of the infrastructure for the Asian Games is already in place. This is due to the vast investment being made in Qatar to prepare for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Al Rayyan Stadium, a proposed venue for Doha 2030, will be the latest World Cup stadium to officially open its doors when it stages the Amir Cup final on Friday, Qatar’s National Day.

The Riyadh bid team highlighted Saudi Arabia’s growing strength in the global sports events marketplace. Saudi Arabia has targeted major sports events as part of its Vision 2030 masterplan, which aims to diversify its economy. The country’s latest major win came last month as it landed rights to a Formula 1 grand prix from 2021 under a multi-year deal.

Ahead of the 2030 and 2034 events, the 19th Asian Games will take place in Hangzhou, China in 2022 and the 20th Asian Games will be in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan in 2026. The most recent edition of the Games was held in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia, in 2018.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia are also rivals in another hosting rights contest for a major sporting event in Asia. The two nations are vying with India, Iran and Uzbekistan for football’s 2027 Asian Cup, with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) expected to make a decision on the host next year.

Image: OCA