Qatar’s participation in the world of sports is nearly as impressive as its contribution to the global energy sector. Though geographically small, the peninsular Gulf country has made itself known as a top destination for some of the most popular sports events of these modern times.
While traditional sports, such as camel and horse racing and Arabian horse breeding, are still important, Qatar has hosted other events of a much larger scale that have been witnessed by millions round the world, and personally attended by dozens of thousands.
On a broadly regional level, Qatar played host to the 2006 15th Asian Games, Asia’s own Olympic-style tournament of sports. The first city in the Gulf region and only the second in West Asia to hold the games, Qatar shone in the spotlight as the flag bearer for the whole of the Middle East. This edition of the Asian Games was also unique in that it was the first time all 45 member nations of the Olympic Council of Asia took part. It was also the first time Eurosport broadcast the event live, meaning that Europe was also able to look on.
One of Qatar’s older international sporting event traditions is the Qatar Open, now called the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. Played on outdoor hard courts, the tennis tournament is part of the ATP World Tour 250 series and has been played at the Khalifa International Tennis Complex in Doha since 1993, when Boris Becker took home the trophy.
Qatar also hosts the Qatar Ladies Open, also known as the Qatar Total Open.
Dating back to 1998 is the Qatar Masters, now sponsored by Commercialbank (as well as Dolphin Energy, Maersk Oil and ExxonMobil) and held during the first two months of the year. The prestigious golf tournament is held on a 7,374-yard unique and challenging desert-type championship course, designed by Peter Harradine, and is a regular stop on the European PGA tour schedule.
As world capital of gas, it is only natural that Qatar host a high-energy sport such as grand prix motor racing. Since 2004, Doha’s $58 million Losail racetrack has been the site of the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar (formerly called the Marlboro GP of Qatar). While the hot, desert conditions in Doha make for an extra challenging race, a year ago the race organizers decided to do something heretofore unseen: in 2008, Qatar successfully celebrated the first night time competition in Grand Prix history.
Qatar also made history in another sport last year when it won the 2022 FIFA World Cup bid, marking the first time a Middle Eastern country has ever been chosen as a location for the planet’s most televised sporting event.
“We were written off early on and no one saw that we had a chance to win. But because of the millions of people who stood with us, we won. We have worked very hard to get to this point,” said Sheikh Mohammad bin Hamad Al-Thani, Qatar bid chairman, back in December.
“We acknowledge that there is a lot of work ahead, but we promise that we will deliver. We will deliver with a lot of passion and make sure that this is a milestone in the history of Middle East and the history of FIFA.”