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QATAR JOINS THE BIDDING FOR THE 2036 OLYMPIC GAMES AFTER 2016 AND 2020 MISSES

The small oil-rich Middle Eastern nation of Qatar has formally launched its bid to host the 2036 Summer Olympic Games. These Games are the next up for grabs after the Los Angeles 2028 and Brisbane 2032 Olympics.

The move was first telegraphed in 2022 in the wake of hosting the FIFA Men’s World Cup in soccer, but this week gained traction with domestic reports that proper bid files are being prepared.

Qatar would be the smallest nation by population to host either the Summer or Winter Olympics. That title currently belongs to Finland, which had a population of roughly 4 million when it hosted the 1952 Games. Qatar currently has a population of around 2.6 million, with The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (Population Division) projecting a population of around 2.9 million by 2036.

At 4,468 square miles (11,570 square kilometers), it is also by far the smallest in land area. Belgium hosted the 1920 Summer Olympics at almost three times the size of Qatar (11,787 square miles/30,528 square kilometers), though the country was much larger then thanks to its overseas colonies, especially the Belgian Congo in Africa.

The country, while small, has vast oil resources, however, that allow it to compete for mass-scale events like the Olympics. The country ranks 55th in the world with an IMF-estimated $244 billion nominal GDP expected for 2024. That makes its economy similar in size to much larger countries like New Zealand, Greece, Nigeria, and Hungary.

Qatar joins a long list of bids by would-be first time host nations for the 2036 Games, and along with other oil-rich Middle Eastern nations is trying to use sports tourism as one means of diversifying its economy. Saudi Arabia is also considering a bid to host the event, which would be held two years after the country hosts the 2034 Asian Games and 2034 Men’s FIFA World Cup (soccer).

Qatar has most recently hosted the 2024 World Aquatics Championships, an event that was jammed into unusual timing in the pre-Olympic year as a ripple-on effect from the COVID-19 pandemic. The country also hosted the 2006 Asian Games, the 2022 Men’s FIFA World Cup in soccer, the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, and is scheduled to host the 2027 FIBA Basketball World Cup and the 2030 Asian Games.

The Asian Games generally attract more participants and sometimes more visitors than the Olympic Games.

Qatari officials are boasting that 80% of the necessary facilities to host the Olympic Games already exist, which is a key metric in bid evaluation as part of the IOC’s new sustainability measures. Qatari newspaper Al-Watan first reported that the country has already begun having conversations with the IOC and preparing a “comprehensive bid file.” Qatar previously bid to host the 2016 and 2020 Summer Games, but was not shortlisted in either year.

While IOC President Thomas Bach has said that “double-digit” number of countries have expressed interest in hosting the 2036 Games, India (Ahmedabad), Indonesia (Jakarta), and Germany (Rhine-Ruhr region) are considered the most serious contenders for now. Several other countries, including Ukraine, Spain, the United Kingdom, Poland, and Mexico, have either withdrawn their bids or postponed them to 2040.

The 2036 Games carry a significant political weight as the event will mark the 100-year anniversary of the infamous Nazi-hosted 1936 Olympic Games. Germany has presented their bid as an opportunity to mark the country’s changed attitude in that time period.

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