Richard Attias was destined to build.
But it’s not towers or monuments that the former engineer is now constructing, but a platform where people can not only share their ideals but create sporting change.
From November 3-5, Attias and his team will produce the third edition of Doha GOALS in the Qatari capital, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar.
He is proud of how the conference has grown in standing and stature since he first discussed it with the former Emir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, four years ago – just when he thought his time in the Gulf had come to an end.
“In 2008 I moved to Dubai, where I worked for the UAE Government and the ideal was to make Dubai a platform for sports events, for cultural events and economic conferences,” he recalls.
“I was CEO of the Dubai Event Management Corporation which was created by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
“Unfortunately, in 2009 we had to manage the consequences of the financial crisis. Dubai was very much impacted and so we decided it would be difficult to organise big events with a lack of sponsors in this context. We did not think it would be right to celebrate big events when people in Dubai were suffering from the crisis.
“That’s when I decided to stop DEMC and move to New York. This is when I started Richard Attias and Associates. I did many conferences until 2010 when I had an informal meeting with HH Sheikh Hamad. We spoke about great ideas and one of them was to create a huge platform for sport, and why not do it in Qatar?
“This is a country I have known for more than 20 years and, before it was awarded the 2022 World Cup, Qatar was always looking at sports as a tool for social progress and social inclusion.
“It was different to what we had planned for Dubai. That was to organise sports events and tournaments, like a new sports championship.
“Doha GOALS is how to use sports to be a game changer, having around the same table private sector businessmen, political leaders and heads of federations, students, media leaders and so on. The DNA of Doha GOALS is to be a call to action and to be platform to launch initiatives.
“And the key word is initiatives. By bringing people together is to create initiative which will help to tackle things like corruption, empowering women, how to help disabled people or minorities and integrate sports in poor countries and so on.”
Last year’s event was certainly ground-breaking in terms of what was on the agenda and what was achieved. A first Ministers of Sport Summit saw more than 20 from around the world discussing how to implement ideas generated at Doha GOALS.
And Doha GOALS is now looking to make progress on four initiatives launched during the 2013 conference. Agreements were signed for a Sport Fields initiative, creating combined football and basketball fields in Port Gentil (Gabon), Nablus (Palestine) and Mazar-e-Sharif (Afghanistan).
There was also a programme to give children access to prosthetics, working with the Katarina Witt Foundation, and a multi-million dollar international sport ‘solidarity’ fund to support athletes and their families when suffering from sustained injuries and post-retirement.
“These highlight that what we do it is not for show, but deliverable with a mission and a goal,” adds Attias. “Through this, the initiative of Doha GOALS will continue to rise and rise and rise.”
Attias kept his sporting passion in check until after he quit engineering to move into the event management business and set up global communications conferences with the Publicis Group.
Starting out with events for corporate firms, his big break came when he was asked to organise a conference in Marrakesh for the signature of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1994, establishing the World Trade Organization.
He said: “It was a great success and many Heads of States were very happy including the US Vice President at the time, Al Gore. At his conclusion he said the organisation was first class and he was congratulating the Kingdom of Morocco. I was very proud and that event helped me a lot.”
With topics such as racism, ethics, peace building, new frontiers in sport and health on the 2014 agenda, Attias says: “The world is moving very fast and you need to look at new initiatives on the coming issues.
“You have to be pro-active and this is where you are seen as a visionary platform and what participants are looking at. That’s what we want to achieve with Doha GOALS.
“I am very proud with what we have achieved with the Doha Goals team under Sheikh Faisal Al Thani's leadership.”