DOHA: November 15 was a busy day indeed for Doha-based correspondents of foreign media organisations.
Aside from the debut of the Doha-based Al Jazeera English Channel at 3pm local time, there was also the inauguration of the Doha Asian Games Main Press Centre earlier in the day and the official opening of the Athletes’ Village at night.
Having welcomed a steady trickle of small advance parties from Nov 10 onwards, the Doha Asian Games Organising Committee (DAGOC) Director for the Athletes’ Village, Hamad Al-Tamimi, addressed a relatively small gathering that was mostly made up of DAGOC officials and staff at the sprawling flag arena.
“The Village will be a home-away-from-home where athletes and officials can enjoy full comforts and facilities while they strive for their best in competition,” he said.
“Our services exceed those even in some Olympic Villages, which is something different to previous host cities of Asian Games,” he said in “Running Sands”, the glossy four-page Athletes’ Village daily news bulletin.
Built over a site of 330,000 square metres, the US$500mil Athletes’ Village has 32 residential buildings with 811 five-bedroom apartments for athletes and 45 for Chef-de-Missions.
Aside from offices for the 45 national Olympic committees, it incorporates a swimming pool, cinema and prayer facilities for various religions, aside from the usual multi-cultural dining, entertainment and other amenities.
The main dining hall will be open round-the-clock serving Arabic, Continental, Sub-continental and Far Eastern food. It can accommodate around 4,000 people at any one time.
In a media statement dated Nov 14, Olympic Council of Asia President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah thanked DAGOC for arranging an additional 1,560 beds at the Athletes’ Village.
“DAGOC had already accomplished their contractual obligation in terms of accommodation for 10,000 athletes and officials expected to participate while Doha was bidding for the Games in 2000. However, OCA/DAGOC received a very large number of participants compared to previous Asian Games.
“On behalf of the OCA family, I extend our sincere thanks to DAGOC for (adding) extra 1,560 beds at the Athletes’ Village to cater to the demand,” Sheikh Ahmad said.
According to a Reuters report also on Nov 14, DAGOC Director-General Abdulla Khalid Al-Qahtani, said that “after hearing about our outstanding facilities, National Olympic Committees have been pushing for more and more people to come.”
“But we cannot build a new village overnight, so the organising committee told them to reduce their numbers,” Al-Qahtani was quoted as saying.
He nevertheless acknowledged the fact that the Games in Doha will include a record number of sports also increased the demand for beds.
“We had put three beds per room and the three athletes would share one bathroom, this was the policy,” Qahtani said, adding that more beds had been added to each room to “solve the situation”.
There were now 11,558 beds available for athletes and officials, he added. – Bernama