— Published 25 August 2022

With ANOC, Qatar advances a new pawn

One month to the day before the opening of the 2022 football World Cup, Qatar will advance a new pawn on the chessboard of international sport. A more Olympic pawn. It should further strengthen the presence and influence of the Gulf state in the sports movement.

The Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) has announced it via a press release: only one candidate will stand before the voters, next October during the General Assembly in Seoul (19 to 21 October), for the position of first vice-president. He will carry the colours of Qatar.

Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al-Thani, 36 (photo above), the fifth son of the Emir of Qatar, will be appointed ANOC First Vice-President without having to face any competition. On the 20 August date, set by the international body as the deadline for submitting a candidature, the Qatari leader was the only one in the running. His election looks like being a formality.

According to ANOC’s statutes, it was up to the continental associations to present candidates for the position of first vice-president. Asia (OCA) did so with Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al-Thani. A winning move.

The other continents passed. Europe, in particular, where the National Olympic Committees (EOC) have been chaired since last year by the Greek Spyros Capralos. Africa, where the Algerian Mustapha Berraf chairs ANOCA, has also given up. Finally, America could have played a major role. The Chilean Neven Ilic, president of Panam Sports, had hinted that he could aim for the ANOC presidency, before backing down and putting his ambitions on hold.

Oceania? She is aiming higher. Acting President of ANOC since 2018 and the forced withdrawal of Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, mired in legal proceedings in Switzerland, Fijian Robin Mitchell now aspires to a more permanent seat. It is already his. Like his future Qatari second in command, Robin Mitchell is the only candidate for the presidency of the world Olympic body.

The two men will go through a General Assembly without anxiety in October in Seoul. They will be elected for a four-year term. According to the usual rules, the election of the first vice-president will take place after that of the president.

After graduating from the Saint-Cyr military school in France and another military academy in North Carolina, Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al-Thani quickly exchanged his officer’s uniforms for the clothes of a sports leader. And he didn’t dawdle on the way.

At just 20 years old, he acted as an ambassador for the 2006 Asian Games torch relay in Doha.

Nine years later, he was elected without any suspense to the presidency of the Qatar Olympic Committee. At less than 30 years of age. He was re-elected last year. The Qatari also chairs the organising committee of the 2030 Asian Games in Doha.

His election as ANOC’s first vice-president could mark a simple step, for Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al-Thani, before taking the reins of the organisation more firmly. His young age argues in his favour. Robin Mitchell, on the other hand, will be 80 years old in 2026 at the end of his mandate.