Background/Objectives: Qatar's entry to the global elite sporting scene, most obviously through its stunning coup to win the hosting rights for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, has been accompanied by pressure to increase participation of female athletes. In response, Qatar has dedicated considerable resources to women's sports and Qatari women have been prominently featured in the 2011 Arab Games and the 2012 Summer Olympics. Qatar officials have publicly voiced their hope that these women will serve as role models who encourage women and girls to engage in physical activity and sports. At the same time, lifestyle changes linked to globalization have wreaked havoc on the health of all Qataris, with rampant diabetes and obesity rates that are among the highest in the world. Women in Qatar may face particular constraints that make it potentially more challenging for them to engage in regular physical activity to combat these diseases. The particular question this study aims to answer is "are Qatari elite female athletes influencing women in Qatar to engage in physical activity/sports?" Method: We have utilized an 84-item survey to investigate what influences the physical activity of women in Qatar. The survey was open before, during and after the summer 2012 Olympics in English and Arabic. Results: The data reported here are based on one set of questions from the larger survey. We found that while personal role models such as friends and family play an important role in physical activity, public figure role models, such as those cited by Qatari officials, are far less frequently cited as influences and in fact, only one Arab public figure of any kind (celebrity, athlete, etc.) was mentioned as a role model for sports or physical activity participation. Conclusion: While the Qatari elite female athletes are smashing gender barriers, they have not yet started to function as significant role models for women in Qatar. Strategies to increase their effectiveness are identified. At this historic point in the development of elite female athletics in Qatar, the research provides data Qatari health officials can utilize in their attempts to combat diabetes/obesity and increase all women's activity levels.


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