AMMAN — Jordan will continue to host world and regional sports events in a bid to bolster its global image and tap into the lucrative tourist market, according to the country’s top sports official.
Prince Feisal al-Hussein, brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah II and current head of the Jordanian Olympic Committee, has been the driving force behind the Middle East country hosting five world sports events over the last four years.
And he pledged ahead of Saturday’s World Cross-Country Championships here that he would try to attract more sporting events to better “showcase Jordan” and portray his country in a positive light not oft associated with the Middle East.
“It is critical for the promotion of Jordan,” Prince Feisal said of the cross-country meet. “It give us the opportunity to showcase Jordan as a safe and secure leisure destination.
“It’s a great opportunity to showcase Jordan not only in terms of what we can do in providing a venue for world-class events but also for athletes, officials and fans to see the history and culture of our country.
“Ultimately our objective is for all guests to have a wonderful event and wonderful memories to take back home.”
Jordan, he said, had been lucky in being able to host world triathlon, fencing and snooker events as well as a stage of the World Rally Championship over the last four years.
“We are trying to put Jordan on the world sporting map,” admitted the English and US-educated prince who trained as a fighter pilot.
“We’re looking at other world, regional and Asian championships to host.
“It’s not just a question of hosting events here but bringing world class athletes here and world interest in Jordan… to show how rich it is in culture and history.
“We want to show it’s a very safe and secure environment for athletes and hopefully not what you see on the television about the Middle East,” he said.
Jordan has been a relative haven of peace compared to its neighbours – Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia – which have all been beset by lingering regional and international problems.
But Prince Feisal acknowledged that Jordan did not have the necessary infrastructure to host a larger multi-event tournament.
“We won’t in the near future be bidding to host the Asian Games or the Olympics,” he said.
“Hosting the Olympics is something we’d maybe consider in the long term but we have no plans to do so in the immediate future. We’d need much more infrastructure to host such an event.”
IAAF president Lamine Diack added: “One of my dreams is to universalise the sport of athletics all over the world. That’s why I’m happy this cross-country championships is being hosted in the Middle East for the first time.
“Why did we pick Jordan? Because Jordan was a candidate,” Diack said, largely sidestepping the question of the relative unpopularity of the sport of cross-country and difficulties in attracting host nations.
“I had the opportunity to come here and attend a regional championships. I spent a good time in this country so when we saw Jordan was a candidate it was like a blessing from heaven,” said the Senegalese national.”