Next stop: the 2036 Olympics. Qatar believes the World Cup has gone so well that it can be a springboard to hosting the biggest sporting event of all. It is understood the country is ready to flex its muscles again and bid to stage the Games in the autumn of 2036, despite having failed three times in the past.
Those earlier bids fell short due in part to scepticism from within the International Olympic Committee that such a small country had the infrastructure to stage an event that attracts 10,500 athletes across 32 sports, along with millions of spectators. However there is growing optimism in Doha that this World Cup offers proof to the IOC that Qatar can deliver an Olympics-style concept, with multiple venues in one major city.
At this stage it is understood Qatar wants to go it alone. But it is likely that there will be people in Olympic circles who will put pressure on Qatar’s Olympic committee to have a joint Middle East bid with Saudi Arabia. It was also perhaps notable that Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who has been a member of the IOC since 2002, has posed with a Saudi flag at this World Cup.
Given the high temperatures in Qatar during the summer, the event would have to be shifted to the autumn. However it would not be the first time that has happened: the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo began on October 10th, while both Seoul 1988 and Sydney 2000 started in mid-September.
Qatar would look to extend its use of air-conditioned stadiums, which have proved successful at this World Cup, to the courses of other outdoor venues. Such a scenario would enable it to avoid the harrowing scenes that marred the women’s marathon at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, when nearly half the field dropped out due to the high heat and humidity despite the race starting on the Corniche just before midnight.
Even with Qatar’s optimism, any bid would inevitably face multiple challenges. The Olympic community has far more out LGBTQ+ athletes than football, and they are likely to express far deeper reservations at the prospect of the Games being staged in a country where being gay is criminalised.
The IOC would also not countenance any of its sponsors having its products removed just days before the Games began, as Budweiser faced after the Qataris imposed an alcohol ban on spectators at stadiums. The IOC president, Thomas Bach, is also thought to be cool on any Qatar bid. However, he is due to step down in 2025, a year before the decision on where to stage the 2036 Games is likely to be made.
There will be logistical challenges too, including how to host a mountain bike competition in a country where the highest point is 338ft above sea level. Qatar will argue that much of the accommodation, transport and stadiums is also already in place to stage a future Games, although a new Olympic Stadium would have to be built given that the Khalifa International Stadium, which staged the World Athletics Championships in 2019, has a capacity of just more than 45,000.
Other countries expected to bid for the 2036 Games include India, Indonesia and Turkey.