Asia’s Olympic chief ruled out rescheduling the 2022 Winter Olympics to avoid the Qatar World Cup on Thursday as moves gather pace to shift football’s showpiece to a cooler time of year.
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, head of Asia’s Olympic body and the worldwide Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), said he was sure the two events would not clash.
But, speaking to reporters during an ANOC meeting in Bangkok, the highly influential Kuwaiti said the World Cup had to fit in around the Winter Olympics, and not the other way round.
“I think the Olympics should be maintained because we don’t have a problem. This is a FIFA issue, not an IOC (International Olympic Committee) issue,” Sheikh Ahmad said.
“For that (reason) I believe the IOC will stick with their time because it already has been committed and the broadcaster has been committed, the broadcasting, all the marketing partners, the NOCs.
“I don’t think anything will touch the Olympics. FIFA should be flexible in choosing — this is my advice — which is the best date.”
The timing of the Qatar World Cup is becoming increasingly complex after football’s world body FIFA supported the idea of holding it in winter to avoid the desert state’s blazing summer months.
Suggested dates for the month-long tournament are January and February 2022 or later that year in November and December, raising fears of a clash with the Winter Games to be held in Beijing or the Kazakh capital Almaty.
Major football leagues oppose a winter World Cup and a January-February timing would also conflict with America’s NFL, whose Super Bowl takes place in early February.
– Strong Olympic contender –
A commission led by Asian football chief Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa is studying dates for the Qatar World Cup, which has already run into controversy over the bidding process and human rights issues.
“I think they will analyse this and they will try to find the best solution, how they will make it without touching each other, keeping the interests of each and respect the period of each game or event,” Sheikh Ahmad said.
“We don’t have to be in a hurry. Somebody’s speaking about January, February before the Games, somebody’s talking about November and somebody’s asking to keep it in August.
“We have to respect opinions, let the commission do their homework, but I’m 100 percent confident they will never be at the same time. There will be respect for the time of each event.”
FIFA is currently investigating the bidding process for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Criticism of Qatar also extends to its treatment of migrant workers following hundreds of deaths at construction sites.
But despite the difficulties, Sheikh Ahmad said Doha would be in a strong position if it decides to launch a fourth bid to host a Summer Olympics, after three failed attempts so far.
“In any case I think Doha is in a better position than the last three bids and when they go again I think they will be in the shortlist,” he said.
The sheikh added that dates for Summer Games should be flexible to give hot countries a better chance of hosting.
“I think we have to respect the south zone of the world. Not only our zone, but South Africa… when we did it in Sydney (2000), we did it in October,” he said.
“Tomorrow Buenos Aires may want it, or some city from South Africa or Australia again. We have to have two periods of time. One for the north, one for the south, not only a world zone.”