Top Olympic official says 2022 Winter Games won't change dates for Qatar World Cup
The 2022 Winter Olympics will remain in the traditional February time slot and will not be moved to make way for a rescheduled World Cup in Qatar, the head of the world's national Olympic committees said Thursday.
FIFA is currently considering moving the World Cup to avoid the summer heat in Qatar, including a possible shift to January-February — a period that would clash with the Olympics.
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, president of the Association of National Olympic Committees, said the Winter Games arrangements are already locked in and the onus is on the World Cup to avoid clashing with the Olympics rather than the other way around.
Sheikh Ahmad, a powerful IOC member who also heads Asia's Olympic association, said the World Cup timing is an issue for FIFA and not the International Olympic Committee.
"The Olympics should be maintained," Sheikh Ahmad said. "The IOC will maintain their time because we already have been committed, the organizers have been organized, the broadcasting, the marketing partners."
The IOC has repeatedly said that it has assurances from FIFA President Sepp Blatter that the two events will not clash.
FIFA said Monday it was targeting two options for moving the World Cup — January-February and November-December. The January-February option is favored by FIFA's confederations. European soccer clubs prefer April-May.
Sheikh Ahmad said he is confident that FIFA will ensure that the World Cup and Olympics do not overlap.
"They are the best two events in the world," he told a small group of reporters on the sidelines of ANOC meetings in Bangkok. "(FIFA) will analyze this and they will try to come up with the best solution how they will make it without touching each other, achieving the interest of each.
"Somebody is talking about January and February before the games, somebody speaking about October and November and others asking to maintain in August. Let the commission do their homework, but I am 100 percent confident they will never be at the same time."
Beijing and the Kazakhstan city of Almaty are the only two remaining bidders for 2022 after several cities dropped out of the running. They will give formal presentations to the ANOC assembly on Friday.
The opposition to the World Cup being hosted in Qatar's summer heat had also been regarded as diminishing the chances of a Middle East country hosting the summer games in 2024 or beyond.
Sheikh Ahmad, who is from Kuwait, said that was an issue that will be addressed as part of the IOC's "Olympic Agenda 2020" reforms. The reforms will be voted on at a special IOC assembly in Monaco next month.
The ANOC chief said there needs to be more flexibility over the timing of the Summer Olympics to broaden the list of candidate cities. He cited Dubai and Doha as examples of Middle East cities that could host the 2024 Games.
"(Dubai) is capable. They don't have to do anything, only the sporting facility," Sheikh Ahmad said. "They have the airport, the hotel, the accommodation, the name, the tourism. We have capable cities in our region which can bid for the games whenever they want.
"This is something we have to discuss in the 2020 agenda. We have to respect the south zone of the world. When we did it in Sydney, we did it in October. We have to put two periods of time: one achieves the north and one achieves the south."
He said Doha, which bid for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics but failed to make the list of finalists both times, could be successful next time.
"The last time (Doha's bid failed) I don't know why it was, because they had almost all the federations accept the time change. Only maybe one federation gave disapproval," Sheikh Ahmad said. "In any case, Doha is now in a position better than the last few years. If ever they will go again, I think they will be on the short list."