(Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee said on Thursday it hoped the diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar by its Gulf neighbours would not affect sports development in the region.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of fomenting regional unrest, supporting terrorism and getting too close to Iran, all of which Doha denies.
Qatar is among the leading investors in world sport, preparing to host the 2022 soccer World Cup and the 2019 world athletics championships among the other top events it is set to stage in the coming years.
“In the world of sport we remain politically neutral and continue our relationships with all the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) in the region,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said.
“We hope for this even more, because all of the NOCs in the region are very active in Olympic sports in different respects and we appreciate especially how much is being contributed to sport development in the region,” Adams told Reuters.
Teams across many sports, including top European soccer clubs such as Bayern Munich, regularly use Qatar’s state-of-the-art sports infrastructure for winter training camps.
Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, the ruling emir of Qatar, has also been an IOC member since 2002.
Doha, which bid unsuccessfully for the 2016 and 2020 summer Olympics, was also seen as a likely candidate for 2028 before the IOC decided last week to award both the 2024 Games and the 2028 edition at the same time in September.
“The IOC appreciates all this work very much and hopes that this crisis does not affect this cooperation,” Adams said. “This is a political issue in the region. We are encouraging a dialogue on the political level so that the problem can be solved at this level.”
Qatar said on Thursday the rift with fellow Gulf Arab states, which includes economic sanctions on Doha, had not affected its preparations to host the World Cup. It said alternative sources for construction materials had been secured.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Mark Heinrich