DUBAI (Reuters) - Doha beat Riyadh to clinch the hosting rights for the 2030 Asian Games at the general assembly of the Olympic Council of Asia on Wednesday in Muscat, the regional governing body announced.
OCA President Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah announced the winner at the conclusion of the vote, which was live streamed, adding that Riyadh would host the 2034 edition of the Games.
“I can now announce... that the city who had the highest vote and will host 2030 is Doha,” Sheikh Ahmad said. “The second hosting city, for 2034, is Riyadh.”
Bitter neighbours Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are locked in a long-running political dispute, had bid for the hosting rights to the second-biggest multi-sport event after the Olympics.
In an attempt to prevent a diplomatic dispute, Sheikh Ahmad said on Tuesday he was looking to avoid a vote by persuading one city to hold the 2030 Games while the other staged the following edition in 2034.
Ng Ser Miang, the chairman of the OCA advisory committee and vice president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said the proposed hosting solution was akin to the IOC decision to award the Olympics to Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028.
However, a senior OCA member confirmed to Reuters that the members were only voting to select who hosts it in 2030 at Wednesday’s general assembly.
Saudi Arabia asked the OCA to halt electronic voting due to “the possibility of technical fraud”, the Saudi state TV reported, and members were seen casting their ballots physically in a box later.
Qatar, a natural gas rich Gulf state with a population of just over 2.6 million, has used its financial clout to land some of the sporting world’s biggest events, including the 2022 soccer World Cup.
Doha hosted the 2006 Games but Saudi Arabia has never organised an OCA multi-sport event.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have maintained a diplomatic, trade and travel embargo on Qatar since mid-2017, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism.
Qatar denies the charges and says the embargo aims to undermine its sovereignty.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai and Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Alison Williams and Christian Radnedge
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