01/13/2012 10:38 am ET Updated Mar 14, 2012

Qatar Looks to a Healthy, Sporty Future

It's a well known fact that exercise is vital to our mental and physical health. This is why the meeting of the Doha Pre-forum GOALS -- Gathering of All Leaders in Sport -- produced by Richard Attias and Associates, is putting sports at the heart of its agenda. On January 7-8 2012, fifty top policymakers, innovators, sports scientists, doctors, academics, NGO leaders, head of federations, and corporate executives met with in Doha at the Aspire Zone in Qatar, to discuss how sport could improve economies and society and the lives of women and people in cities.

As preparations gain speed for the FIFA World Cup in 2022, Qatar is transforming into a prime destination for sports. With the sophisticated facilities at the Aspire Zone Foundation, and the Aspire Academy -- one of the world's leading elite sports institutes -- it is fast becoming a regional and international sporting hub. The Aspire Zone Foundation boasts some of the world's finest sport stadia and venues. It came to international prominence through its successful staging of the 2006 Asian Games, and offers a unique sport, sports medicine, research and education destination for the international sports industry.

At the welcome ceremony on Saturday, Hassan Al-Thawadi, Chief Executive Officer of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, spoke about the importance of the 2022 soccer World Cup. "From the beginning of the bidding process we always viewed the FIFA World Cup as an event with benefits that extended far beyond football. We knew that we had to create legacies that would benefit football and sport on a global scale," he said. He pointed out the role that sport plays in the lives of young people -- "Lessons in life can be learned on the pitch."

Research shows that athletic exercise helps children psychologically as well as physically, developing their social skills and sense of team-building and fairness. At the Doha Pre-Forum GOALS meeting, Arianna Huffington interviewed the tennis genius Martina Navratilova, who talked about how important sports are to girls. "Boys are encouraged to do sports," she said. "Girls are encouraged to be cheerleaders." She added that there is potential for Qatar to take a central role in the future. "Qatar has the opportunity to create a blueprint for a modern society that is well-rounded."

Sports bring broad benefits for countries too, helping to develop key industries such as tourism and to embellish urban centers. The commercialization of sports can provide an economic stimulus to a region. Speaking on behalf of His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Hamad Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar, the Secretary General of Qatar Olympic Committee, H.E. Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, drew on this idea. "Sports have become a mandatory development tool for most countries and corporations," he said. "The universal values that sports can teach us are lessons that will help us rise to our potential as human beings and global citizens."

We believe that sports are central to tackling many of the problems that the world is facing and to bettering the lives of adults and children alike. Sports activities bring people together. They inspire young people to work towards a better future. They transcend local boundaries and unite individuals across different countries and cultures. Those are our starting points for the Doha Pre-forum GOALS.

Richard Attias
Founder, Richard Attias and Associates