Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, said on Tuesday that sports can play a role in uniting different peoples and cultures around the world.
At the United Nations General Assembly, Sheikh Tamim highlighted the “enormous potential and opportunities” of his small Arab country, which hosted the soccer World Cup last fall.
“During the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, there was an opportunity for interaction between peoples and it was an opportunity for the world to see our people as they are and learn about our culture and values,” said Sheikh Tamim , calling Qatar “a global destination and a link between East and West.”
“We emphasized the role that sport could play in building bridges of communication and rapprochement between peoples and cultures,” he continued. “I hope that through this tournament we have contributed to breaking stereotypes and introducing a new, exciting and safe tournament to the world.”
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Qatar, a roughly 4,500-square-mile peninsula bordering the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia, made history last year when it hosted the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in November and December. It was the first time the football tournament was held entirely in the Middle East and the second time it was held entirely in Asia.
FOX Sports held the exclusive US broadcast rights for the 2022 World Cup.
The tournament’s presence in Qatar has been controversial, as the Islamic country has faced scrutiny and criticism over its treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQ+ people.
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The alleged abuses affecting legions of low-wage workers who fuel Qatar’s economy and who built its glittering World Cup stadiums have been a flashpoint of protest around the world, especially in Europe.
Last October, Sheikh Tamim said Qatar had been targeted by an “unprecedented campaign” protesting the criminalization of homosexuality, despite Qatar’s insistence that all people, including LGBTQ fans, were welcome at the World Cup – as long as they respect the Islamic country. aversion to public displays of affection.
Sheikh Tamim took control of the oil-rich Gulf nation after his father abdicated in June 2013.
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The emir has promoted sports in Qatar as a means of raising his country’s international profile. A football fanatic, he bought Paris Sant-Germain in 2011 through Qatar Sports Investment.
Qatar has served as an important US partner in the Middle East.
Qatar brokered indirect US-Iran talks over the five Americans released Monday by Iran in a prisoner swap. Switzerland, which represents US interests in Tehran because the United States and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, helped funnel funds from South Korea to Qatar.
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The Americans and two of their family members arrived in Doha, Qatar on Monday after leaving Iran. White House officials supported the move as President Biden reunites families. During the exchange, the US offered five Iranian prisoners and returned $6 billion in frozen funds for use in Iran.
The five Americans were welcomed on the tarmac in Qatar on Monday by US Ambassador to Qatar Timmy Davis. Three of the former detainees, Namazi, Emad Sharghi and Morad Tahbaz, hugged the ambassador and others present after exiting the plane.
The Biden administration has said the Iranians released in the deal do not pose a threat to US national security, according to the Associated Press.
Greg Norman of Fox News, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.