Doha put on a great show but the Olympics are another matter

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 December, 2006, 12:00am

'The Games of your Life' has ended. Wonder what slogan organisers will come up with, if Doha manages to bag the 2016 Olympics - the big prize which they are angling for. Will it be 'The Games of your Life, Part II'?

I hate sequels. The only sequel I have seen which was better than the original was The Godfather, Part II. I loved Al Pacino in his role as Michael Corleone. He was so cool.

But it is very rare that the follow-up is as good as the original. And I have to admit that Doha has put on a good show in staging the first Asian Games in an Arab country. The facilities and organisation have been world class. The fact that Doha is such a small city, also meant that the travel time between the Athletes' Village and venues was at a minimum. The furthest anyone had to travel was 45 minutes.

While everything has gone like clockwork, the biggest problem Doha will face when it comes to convincing members of the International Olympic Committee to vote for them in 2009 is the lack of fan atmosphere at the games.

The official attendance figure for spectators at these games was given as 750,000. I might have flunked in maths at school, but no way can this number have been reached.

The only venues which were at capacity were at the tennis centre when India were playing, and in the football stadiums when Qatar appeared. Most of the other sports were played out in front of empty stands.

The other question which Doha will face is what have they got to offer overseas visitors arriving for the 2016 Olympics.

This is not a party town like Sydney 2000, or Athens 2004. Even Beijing 2008 will have more to offer in terms of entertainment and things for the visitor to do. And London 2012 will absolutely be a blast.

But Doha? Since there have been virtually no foreign tourists who have come to watch these games this past fortnight, I can only draw upon my own experiences of trying to find a place to wind down after a hard day's work.

There are just a handful of bars, all in hotels, and most of which close early.

Imagine if the Olympics were to be held here. Where will the masses - Qatar has promised to build 50 new hotels by 2016 - hang out.

What about the athletes themselves? After their events are over, the athletes like to let down their hair and have a ball. It has been hard to do this here.

Malaysian squash ace, world number one Nicol David, was one among many who ended up at the Rydges bar to celebrate her gold medal. This is one of the few watering holes which open until late. I don't think she was too impressed.

When the IOC members vote in 2009, every facet will be taken into account - the facilities, the transport system, the crowds, the city's ambience etc. Doha will certainly lag behind in these last two categories.

Can they match the attractions of, say, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Chicago of the United States, Cape Town, Tokyo, Bangkok, Madrid, Rome, or Havana - all cities who have expressed an interest in hosting the 2016 Games.

With the athletes now having a voice on the IOC executive board, their representatives would definitely plump for a city where they can have some fun after they finish the serious business of competing.

Qatar might have the money - they pumped in US$2.8 billion to stage these games - but they certainly don't have anything else.

Money can buy a lot of things, but can it change the character of a city?

Unless Doha becomes as liberal as Dubai in the next couple of years, it is hard to see them convincing people that the Olympics should be staged here. Stranger things have happened. But it would make for a poor sequel.

Number of the Day: Two

In only two sports - weightlifting and shooting - were world records set or tied. No athlete came close to setting new world bests in the other 26 Olympic sports, highlighting the gulf in standards between the Asian Games and the Olympics.