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Qatar to continue bidding for Olympic Games

DOHA (Reuters) - Qatar will keep bidding for the summer Olympics, despite having failed to make the cut in the race to host the 2016 and 2020 Games, the country's Olympic Committee said on Thursday.

"We will continue on that path and we will continue to bid," the Qatar Olympic Committee's general secretary Saoud bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said at the Aspire4Sport business conference.

"Every time we bid, we are listening and learning to see how we can make our bid stronger."

"Our 2020 bid was stronger than our 2016 bid because the IOC (International Olympic Committee) executive board accepted our plan to host the Games in the October window, which didn't happen the first time."

Qatar has already won the right to host the 2022 soccer World Cup, a controversial decision, which it plans to stage in summer inside air-conditioned stadiums to cope with the searing heat.

UEFA president Michel Platini is among those who would prefer that tournament to be staged there in winter.

The small peninsula adjoining Saudi Arabia has a population of only 1.7 million people but is aiming to become a sports hub for the Middle East and North Africa region.

"We think our next bid (for the Olympics) will be even stronger because of what we have learnt from 2020 and we think that each time we bid, we can get closer," said al-Thani.

"We think that if we can keep doing that, one day the dream will happen to host the Olympics in the Middle East."

He added that the focus was on legacy and avoiding the creation of "white elephants".

"We have watched countries build large venues and struggle later with what to do with them," he observed. "Our team has worked backwards, thinking first about how these venues can be of use in the future before planning their use during major sporting events."

Doha's failed bids for the 2016 and the 2020 Games may have strengthened their determination but the biggest obstacle in winning the nod for the summer Olympics remains the weather.

The 2016 bid was cut short due to Doha's plans for Games in October without clearing it with the IOC first. Such a plan would wreak havoc with national sports schedules with most seasons under way by then.

Despite a date exemption for the 2020 bid, Doha again failed to make the shortlist. The Qatari capital, along with Azerbaijan's Baku, was not shortlisted by the IOC, leaving Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo in a three-horse race.

It was not just the threat of searing temperatures that frightened away the IOC, but also the prospect of low television ratings if the Olympics was to go up against other major sporting events.

The IOC made it clear in their evaluation report that holding the Games in October was a non-starter.

"In July/August, people have more leisure/vacation time. There is therefore a risk that an October Games would become a 'weekend Olympics Games' and with a reduced demographic reach, broadcasters would have difficulties in attracting the same audience levels in terms of working people and youth," it said.

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne, additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann in Berlin, editing by Alan Baldwin)

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