Interview: Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani

How do sports fit into Qatar’s plan for economic diversification and into its national vision?

SHEIKH SAOUD BIN ABDULRAHMAN AL THANI: Sport is a fundamental aspect of Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV 2030) and ties into numerous areas of the country’s projected goals. The vision identifies sports as an enabler for a wide set of other objectives. As for economic diversification, sports will support the growth of tourism and sports-related industries while assisting growth in the private sector. In terms of health care and the labour pool, sports encourage a healthy lifestyle, easing the burden on the health care system while encouraging a healthy and productive workforce. A healthier population is ultimately happier and more productive, which translates into a skilled workforce capable of sustaining economic development. Research shows that students who play sports often enjoy a more active learning environment, which in turn will help achieve educational goals set out in the human development pillar of QNV 2030.

What tangible financial impacts have international sporting events had on the Qatar economy?

SHEIKH SAOUD: Qatar hosts 99 events annually, and 48 of them are international sporting events. The financial impact of this has been positive for all sectors, especially the local private sector. We plan to increase the number of international events to 50 in the near future. The country’s sports strategy aims to ensure that the private sector benefits from the opportunities that sporting events offer, such as infrastructure development, trade and tourism. One of the state’s main goals is to create a knowledge-based economy and sport is one of the platforms for this ongoing effort. Previous events such as the 2006 Asian Games have galvanised the local economy and created a plethora of opportunities for domestic development. Sport events will have a long-term impact on the local economy, as infrastructure projects move forward for rail, sea, air and road. There are also a large number of accommodation facilities being prepared to welcome visitors, who inject money into the local economy when attending such events.

How is policy helping the local private sector to benefit from investments in the sports sector?

SHEIKH SAOUD: Qatar currently has a high percentage of private sector involvement. Our strategy for developing the sports sector corresponds to QNV 2030 by encouraging the local private sector to participate. On an annual basis, we publish a list of opportunities available to private companies within the sports industry, to ensure fair distribution of opportunities for all organisations. The annual handbook is widely distributed and lists all private-sector opportunities and tenders.

To what extent will development in the sports sector provide job opportunities for Qataris?

SHEIKH SAOUD: Our economic and sporting goals go hand in hand and are aimed at attracting sporting events while at the same time developing homegrown talent. Sports will provide a number of new opportunities, particularly for Qataris, as we continue building our capacity by hosting major international sporting events.

The development of sports infrastructure and facilities will obviously create new job opportunities, but the longer-term goal is to invest in creating elite competitors in the state who are physically fit. This plan involves identifying and developing young Qataris into talented athletes. A goal of this nature also requires developing the human resources capable of managing and educating young Qatari athletes, be they coaches, teachers, professionals in sports medicine, managers, or any of the numerous other career paths that come along with developing the nation into an international sporting hub.