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Qatar beats Saudi Arabia to host 2030 Asia Games

Doha will hold competition while Riyadh takes the 2034 event, Olympic Council of Asia announces
Doha was revealed as the host city of the 2030 Asia Games during the Olympic Council of Asia's general assembly in Muscat, Oman (AFP)

Qatar has beaten off competition from Saudi Arabia and won the rights to host the 2030 Asia Games, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) announced at its general assembly on Wednesday. 

Despite losing out to Doha, Riyadh will host the 2034 edition of the Games, OCA president and Kuwaiti politician Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah announced after the meeting.

Qatari officials waved flags and sangs chants at the meeting in the Omani capital Muscat, as Doha won the vote among the OCA’s 45 national Olympic committee members.

While a vote was held to determine the 2030 host, the OCA reached a deal to give the other candidate the 2034 rights without holding a ballot. 

“That means no winner, no loser,” Sheikh Ahmad said. “Thank you, Asia, for solidarity and coordination.”

After the announcement, Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Faisal was invited on stage at the same time as Qatari Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani.

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“Everybody is a winner,” the OCA president said, holding up the arms of both men, in a rare show of unity between the rival Gulf countries. 

Relations between the two have been hostile since June 2017, when Riyadh, along with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, cut all economic and political ties with Qatar. The bloc alleged that Doha was too close to Iran and Iran-backed militant groups. Qatar has denied the accusations.

Earlier this month, Kuwait's foreign minister said that there had been "fruitful discussions" over reconciling Qatar with its Gulf neighbours and ending the almost four-year blockade. 

Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have increasingly sought to host sporting events. 

It was announced last month that Qatar would host the inaugural FIFA Arab Cup in 2021, as it prepares to become the first Middle East nation to host the football World Cup in December 2022. 

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia will host its first Formula One race next year. This is an addition to hosting heavyweight boxing, wrestling, football, golf and several other sports, as part of its Vision 2030 strategy to modernise the kingdom. 

Both countries have been criticised by activists and rights organisations for using the events to “sportswash” human rights abuses.