Doha, Qatar. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As it strives to develop new markets amid regional political tensions, Qatar wants to build a $20 billion sports industry by 2022, an official said Sunday.

Yousuf Mohamed al-Jaida, chief executive of the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), said he expected the target to be reached within three years.

The QFC is a government-backed business body that aims to attract domestic and international investment into Qatar.

Jaida said there would be “a major expansion of sports in terms of targets and in terms of focus.”

Although well-known for hosting sporting events – and Qatar is likely to bid again to host the Olympics – Jaida said the new approach would go further.

The development of the industry would focus not only on hosting but increased use of Qatari sporting medical and training facilities, which are thought to be among the best in the world.

Jaida added that the Gulf state would try to cash in on the growing international reputation of its expensive sports’ training center, the Aspire Academy.

Aspire is used by an increasing number of teams – including Bayern Munich and Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain – and is a hothouse for many of the local players who recently helped Qatar win the Asian Cup.

“We’re doing this in coordination with Aspire and if you look at the infrastructure that they put together it’s massive, it’s world class and I think we can build upon their success,” said Jaida.

Jaida admitted that the new approach had been driven because of political tensions in the Gulf.

“The strategy came about because of the geopolitical situation,” he said.

Since June 2017, Qatar has been isolated from neighboring former allies as a result of a bitter political dispute.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain accuse Qatar of supporting and funding “terrorism” and of working with Riyadh’s regional adversary Iran.

Doha denies the charges and accuses its rivals of seeking regime change in Qatar.

– with reporting by Agence France-Presse

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