BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DOHA: International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has given his thumbs-up to Qatar’s hugely popular Schools Olympic Program, saying the ideals of the Olympic Movement are best served in the hands of the country’s emerging youth.
“This is definitely the right way (to go),” Bach said when asked to comment in Qatar’s SOP initiative. “And in this respect, we can only congratulate Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) for the many initiatives they are taking with regards to sports in society and contribution of sports to make society better,” the 60-year-old German added.
The SOP initiative targets kids between the ages of 5 and 18 with a series of competitions in 10 disciplines held over a period of seven months every year.
“The approach Qatar is taking through sports, from class level to top level in education, or in daily lives of people is really impressive,” Bach, who was elected IOC President last September, said.
“Sports is not only about playing sports. It is also about the importance of sports for education (purposes). It is about importance for cohesion of society, for integration into society. It is about the role of mutual understanding even on international level, not only within a community,” Bach said.
Encouraging kids to play sports and urging their parents in supporting their children is the first step to international stardom, according to Bach.
“It is impressive to see how Qatar takes holistic approach to the role of sport. That means Qatar is not only caring about big sports events but is really building sports from childhood on,” Bach explained.
“Even addressing parents to make them aware of the advantages of sports and then addressing schoolchildren with Olympic Day initiatives is praiseworthy,” the retired fencer added.
“That means, in Qatar, you have really established a culture of sports - for youth, the general population as well as for high level athletes,” the IOC president said.
When asked about Qatar’s future Olympic bids, Bach suggested a wait-and-watch approach. “We will see what is going to happen in the future. For the time being there is no (bid) competition running for Summer Games. I think the world’s attention is on the soccer (2022 FIFA) World Cup. So we will see what the future brings,” Bach said.
Bach said IOC is only looking at 2022 Winter Games bids at the moment.
“I think it is now too early to speculate what will happen. With the bidding for 2024, 2028 or 2032, you know in the Olympic world, you have to think long-term. And therefore let’s wait and see now once the (bid) competition for 2022 Winter Games is over then the time will come to think about 2024,” Bach said.
After a brief tour of Qatar’s anti-doping lab, Bach said: “It is my second visit to the (anti-doping) lab. I see great progress. What has fortunately not changed is the enthusiasm of the people working here, which you can feel when you talk to them. People are not just doing their job. They are very enthusiastic and they are working here with their heart in this very important fight to get clean athletes.”
Bach, who flew in from Kuwait City, said QOC was busy preparing its paper that every member country has to submit on IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2022 theme.
“It was a very good meeting because there were many representatives of the Olympic Movement,” Bach said of his visit to Kuwait.
“So we had a good exchange of ideas.
“I am happy to learn Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) is preparing a paper for the Olympic Agenda 2020. I am looking forward to this. The record QOC can show with regard to the development of sport is very impressive,” Bach said. THE PENINSULA