[LETTERS to the editor]Setting the Qatar record straightRichard Thompson (Letters, Nov. 2) seems rather misinformed about Qatar. As someone who has been there and to Dubai several times this year alone, I thought it prudent to set his three points straight:
1. Yes, the Asian Games are being held next December in Doha, but the likelihood of their being the “sporting event of the 21st century” is pretty far-fetched. Despite the expected declaration of “Best [insert name and date of event here] Ever” that accompanies each successive Olympics, Asian Games, etc., Doha’s Games will likely do little more than bring the country rapidly up to date with telecom and sporting infrastructure, a good thing in itself, but hardly a “hub-making” venture. The last Asian Games held in the Middle East was in Tehran in 1974; what legacy did it leave for Iran? Seoul’s hosting of the ‘86 Asian Games led to the Olympics, ‘02 FIFA World Cup and Busan Asian Games and numerous other world-class events, something not highly likely in Qatar’s next 16 years.
2. Referring to the “Doha Round” (WTO) as if its progress were due to the city and nation makes little or no sense as Doha was merely the initial host in 2001, while the round of talks has since been carried on in Cancun, Mexico, Geneva, Switzerland, and Paris, all while retaining the “Doha”appellative. This would be like tying the “Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development” (1992) or “Earth Summit” to the remarkable environmental strides or greening of Rio de Janeiro, which simply hasn’t happened.
3. Qatari women? After six business trips to Doha, I can say that the only bona fide Qatari woman I’ve had any speaking contact with worked at the Immigration counter in the airport. Other than that, native women have very limited roles in business or government, and referring to one female member of the royal family hardly represents the overall situation of Qatari females, even though I can appreciate what she’s doing. A better example of Muslim women’s progress is Nada Zaidan, the first Qatari female in history to take part in an international automobile rally, and a former archer on Qatar’s Olympic team.
While Doha is indeed booming, Dubai is positively exploding with thousands of construction cranes dotting the landscape, first noticeable upon landing and seeing the airport’s huge expansion project. This will all complement several already established free economic zones, including the Internet City, Media City and Jebel Ali.
Qatar will no doubt continuing growing and thriving, but whether it can overcome Dubai’s (or indeed, Abu Dhabi’s) hearty lead as Middle East “hub” will not be known for some time.
by Shane Berg