JASSIM AL BUENAIN

Qatar 2021 | SPORTS & THE 2022 FIFA WORLD CUP | INTERVIEW

As the world recovers from COVID-19, sport will continue to make an important contribution, and QNOC is working hard to ensure fans can return to sporting events as soon as possible.

Jassim Al Buenain
BIOGRAPHY

Jassim Al Buenain is a former striker in Qatar's national football team and the current Secretary General of the Qatar Olympic Committee. He was CEO of the Doha Bid Committee for the Asian Games 2030 and vice president and director general of the inaugural ANOC World Beach Games in Doha in 2019 organized by the Association of National Olympic Committees. Al Buenain played professional football for 12 years and was named the best Qatari player for the 2001/2002 season.

What has 2020 meant for the Qatari sports industry? What have been the highlights of the year for Qatar Olympic Committee?

2020 was undoubtedly a challenging year for Qatari sport, as it was for sport and societies around the world. From a corporate perspective, we had to change our business model in order to adapt to the business environment enforced upon all of us by the COVID-19 pandemic, where working remotely and the use of technology became a big part of our daily functioning as an industry. However, despite the challenges, there were many highlights in 2020. Team Qatar began the year by claiming the title of Asian Men's Handball Championship held in Kuwait.
One of the main highlights was Doha being awarded the 2030 Asian Games in December. Hosting the 2030 Asian Games has been a national priority for our country and so we were humbled and greatly honored to be awarded this prestigious event for the second time. We greatly look forward to welcoming Asia back to Doha in 2030 for a celebration of our continent's sporting excellence and cultural diversity. In spite of the difficulties in 2020, sport continued to play a critical role in helping us all to maintain positive physical and mental health and to keep us connected. Through initiatives such as the QOC Virtual Marathon we were able to achieve a sense of community.

How do you see the sports industry evolving in Qatar up to 2030?

It is certainly set to be an exciting decade for Qatar. Next year we will host the world's largest single sport event—the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Qatar 2022 will be the first World Cup in the Middle East and will showcase the significant advancements our country has undertaken in recent years under the National Vision 2030. It will be one of the most sustainable and technologically advanced World Cups ever hosted. In 2023, we will host two more major sports events—the FINA World Aquatic Championships and the IJF World Judo Championships. And to end the decade, as mentioned, we will host the largest multi-sports games based on number of athletes and sports—the 2030 Asian Games. Hosting these major international events will strengthen Qatar's position as a sporting hub not just in Asia but on a global level. We look forward to offering our state-of-the-art facilities and know-how to the athletes of the region and wider world and to cooperating with all stakeholders to create a platform for sporting excellence. In addition, in the next decade we will stage many other national and international events as well that will allow us to enhance our hosting experience and expertise ensuring that we are continually improving and delivering world-class events.

There are voices speaking up about a potential cancelation of the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. How is Qatar collaborating with the International Committee and foreign national committees to overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic?

I would like to reiterate our full support for the IOC and our Japanese colleagues who are doing everything possible to ensure that Tokyo 2021 does go ahead. We have full confidence in the IOC and Tokyo 2020, and we are working full-steam ahead to prepare Team Qatar for the Olympics in five months. In terms of hosting events safely in Qatar, thanks to His Highness the Amir and the government, Qatar has done an excellent job in managing COVID-19 in our country. When we host events, we have clear and well-defined rules that everyone must follow. We have many countermeasures in place including a bubble-to-bubble approach, regular testing, minimizing contact, and continuous sanitization of equipment and venues. We are not yet in a position to allow spectators back into venues, but we hope that with the rollout of the vaccines, it will not be long before fans can return and once again generate the fantastic atmospheres they have done in the past.