Qatar's new emir raised profile with sports

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Qatar's new ruler was the not the first choice to lead the Gulf nation and its growing political and economic ambitions.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani became the crown prince a decade ago - at the age of 23 - when his older brother Jassim gave up his position as emir-in-waiting.

That began a gradual grooming process for the British-educated Sheikh Tamim inside Qatar's security and investment arms, which are bankrolled by enormous oil and gas wealth.

As deputy commander of the armed forces, he had sway over multibillion dollar arms purchases and direct dealing with defense officials from the U.S. and other Western allies. His senior role with the Qatar Investment Authority gave him a powerful voice over the direction of one of the world's most active sovereign wealth funds, whose landmark stakes around the world include Harrods department store in London and luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co.

But Sheikh Tamim's most enduring international image to this point has been linked to sports.

His crowning moment came as he helped win Qatar's bid to host the 2022 World Cup. Sheikh Tamim and other Qatari officials, however, later faced complaints that the nation used its vast wealth to swing support its way from football federation members in Africa and elsewhere.

Last year was less positive - an International Olympic Committee member since 2002, Sheikh Tamim headed Doha's unsuccessful bid for the 2020 Olympics. Qatar's capital has been mentioned as a possible bidder for the 2024 Games - an effort that could get a boost from the new emir.

Sheikh Tamim - who also has served as head of Qatar's Olympic panel since 2000 - helped avoid an embarrassing showdown with Olympic overseers by organizing the first female athletes representing Qatar for last year's London Olympics. Neighboring Saudi Arabia and the Asian country of Brunei also sent their first women Olympic athletes.

Sheikh Tamim was educated at schools in England and then graduated from Sandhurst, Britain's prestigious military academy and alma mater for many Middle Eastern leaders.

His two wives include Sheika Anoud bint Mana al-Hajri, a member of a prominent Qatari family. He has six children.