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WORLD FOCUS: Olympics in Doha?

May 14, 2012
FRANK SHATZ , Lake Placid News

The Olympic Games, unlike any other world event, has the ability to create real change. The Olympics change their host city by leaving physical legacies such as housing and infrastructure. They change sport, by increasing participation and support. And, in those rare occasions, the Games can promote peace, which is the ideal envisioned by the founder of modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin

For the 2020 Summer Games, all of those opportunities are at hand. There are five applicant cities, Istanbul, Tokyo, Baku, Doha and Madrid, competing to host the Games. The International Olympic Committee will select the candidate cities in May 2012 and the selection for host city will take place in September 2013.

Doha, the capital city of Qatar, an Arab state on the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, is eager to play host to the Games and could well be an agent of historic change. The one concern about Qatar is the heat during the summer months. But the IOC had allowed Qatar's bid to apply for dates in October-November, when it's much cooler. A new climatic survey shows environmental conditions in line with past summer Olympics held, in Sydney, Athens, and Mexico City.

Of course, there are many other conditions the IOC must take into consideration when choosing a site for the Olympics. Thus, it is no wonder that the bid city is careful in building a team than can deliver.

For Doha, one of those team members is Mike Holtzman. He is a partner in Brown Lloyd James, an international public relations firm. He is a graduate of the College of William & Mary, and a member of the College's Reves Center for International Studies, Advisory Council. He managed the successful global PR campaign on behalf of China's bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games. As a result, Holtzman was named "PR Person of the Year" by the prestigious PR Week Magazine. He also played a leading role on behalf of Vancouver's winning bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"Qatar is a country that has been punching above its weight geopolitically by pushing democratic reforms at home and supporting education and social development throughout the greater Middle East region," Holtzman said in a recent interview with the Lake Placid News and The Virginia Gazette.

He explained that Qatar's bid for the Games has two fascinating implications. For one, it is a vehicle to promote women's rights and participation in global sports. The centrality of women to Doha's bid is reflected in the fact that women occupy many of the most senior roles in the bid's organizational structure.

According to Holtzman, the effects of centering the Olympics around, the dreams and hopes of women in the region largely dominated by males, could be transformative.

In addition, the Games have never before been held in the Middle East. "There is a massive population of young people in the Middle East yearning to see the Olympic torch and to inspire in themselves a feeling of personal change. A new generation which has grown up amid such incredible political change, once exposed to the spirit of the Olympics could have a lasting effect in the region," he said.

"I think the case for Doha us quite simple. No other city affords the Olympic Movement so many once-in-a-generation opportunities. This is a city that just continues to astound, whether it is inventing a regional free press through Al Jazera, or unlocking the potential of its people through the campuses of western universities," Holtzman said.

He also thinks highly of the idea of replicating the Lake Placid Olympic People-for-People Program which was one of the most successful non-sport events of the 1980 Winter Games.

The concept was simple. To, demonstrate international goodwill by offering an opportunity to the local residents of the host city, to open their hearts and homes to foreign Olympic athletes and officials.

""During the Olympic Games, such a program could serve as a window, on a personal level, to the Arab world," Holtzman said. "It would help the athletes to learn about Islamic culture and enable the local population, while interacting with athletes from around the world, learn about other civilizations."

Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.



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