World Aquatics and several national aquatics federations have denied reporting by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the country’s oldest daily newspaper, that European officials are pressuring the global governing body to move the 2024 World Aquatics Championships out of Doha, Qatar.
- The 2024 World Aquatics Championships are scheduled in Doha, Qatar from February 2-18, 2024.
“World Aquatics is not facing any pressure to move the event in Doha and not a single country has contacted us in this respect,” Brent Nowicki, the chief executive of World Aquatics told SwimSwam via email.
In addition to the Slovak Swimming Federation (reported here), Marco Stachiotti, head of the Luxembourg swimming federation, and Jakub Tesárek, the president of Czech Aquatics, have also denied that their federations have had any conversations with World Aquatics about moving the event.
“Despite condemning all the violence currently happening in the region of Israel and hoping for a swift resolution to the conflict, none of the members of the Czech Aquatics Bureau have requested World Aquatics to relocate the World Championships from Qatar to another country,” Tesarek said. “The foreign policy falls within the competence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Czech Republic Governance.”
The original reporting, by Haaretz sports editor Ido Rakovsky, cites “senior European water sports personnel” and, separately, “Officials from Luxembourg, Czechia, Slovakia, Azerbaijan, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries.” The original report did not specify that the aquatics federations of those countries were creating the pressure, nor did it cite a source for the information, even in anonymous terms.
For the past decade, Qatar has provided asylum for Hamas leadership in Doha while also supporting the Palestinian group financially. That partnership is under the microscope again after a surprise attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 that left more than 1,300 Israelis dead, at least 32 U.S. citizens deceased, and about 200 people taken as hostages. Israel responded by declaring a war that has killed more than 5,000 Palestinians according to the United Nations, including more than 1,500 children, and displaced more than a million Gaza residents over the past two weeks.
Further reporting from SwimSwam’s Riley Overend.
Qatar, a wealthy nation with less than half a million citizens, is in a unique position as an ally of both Hamas and the U.S. military, which operates a command base not far from the swanky Doha hotels and villas hosting Hamas leaders. Last year, the U.S. declared Qatar a “Major Non-NATO Ally.”
Qatar was reportedly the lead negotiator in Friday’s release of two American hostages taken Oct. 7 and earned thanks from President Joe Biden. According to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, 10 other Americans remain unaccounted for in the conflict.
Last week, World Aquatics moved the final stop of the Open Water World Cup Series from Eilat, Israel to Funchal, Portugal amid the ongoing war between Israel and Palestine. World Aquatics did not make a broader statement on the ongoing war, referring to the war as “recent occurrences in Israel.”
World Aquatics president Husain Al-Musallam is a native of Kuwait, where the government has no diplomatic relations with Israel and has blamed the Israelis for the war and sided with Palestine in the decades-long conflict. Al-Musallam is not a government official and the statements of the Kuwaiti government do not seem to have impacted World Aquatics’ stance on Israel in the past, awarding the country several high-profile events, including the recent World Junior Swimming Championships.
The 2024 World Championships next February are set to be the first edition ever held in the Middle East, but Doha has hosted the Short Course World Championships in 2014 as well as nine legs of the World Cup series between 2012 and 2021.