Last week’s World Cup selections generated a great deal of baseless commentary from the soccer-snubbed all over the world, and I was hoping to find a way to educate Americans, including myself, on the country that was chosen ahead of us in the final vote. Fortunately for us, a dear friend and classmate from the DeVos Sport Business Management program, Nathan Semones, was able to accommodate. Nathan’s parents have been living in Doha, Qatar for the past three and a half years. His sports cred includes stops at Madison Square Garden and Conference USA, as well as consulting projects for Wasserman Media Group and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Without further ado, I am very excited to introduce the work of the very first guest blogger on OSM Guy….
Qatar World Cup 2022
By Nathan Semones
Last week, it was announced that Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup. This came as quite the shock to the average American – not only was the U.S. the odds-on favorite for the bid, but also the name “Qatar” might have just as easily conjured an image of a sword or musical instrument. If you have ever watched Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” bit, you know that a staggering number of people can’t identify Iraq or Afghanistan on a map – let alone Qatar.
A quick summary, then, might help gain some perspective. Qatar is an emirate in the Middle East, and geographically is a tiny peninsula jutting from the east coast of Saudi Arabia into the Persian Gulf. Qatar’s native population is around the size of Kansas City, but most estimates calculate that the expatriate workers from other nations at least triple the population. Even more dramatic, 80% of the country’s population lives in the capital (Doha) and surrounding areas. The entire Qatari economy is oil-driven, and they have the second-highest per capita wealth in the world (CIA World Factbook).
From FIFA’s perspective, Qatar probably had several main selling points. To name a few:
- An unrivaled “money is no object” mentality – Qatar wooed the WC ’22 committee with an extravagant proposal, which included plans for at least 5 new stadia built specifically for the event.
- Stadia would be built or renovated to provide indoor, air-conditioned competition.
- A particularly stable nation to serve as the World Cup’s first host in the Middle East.
- Experience hosting sporting events on smaller scales, including the Asian Games and major tennis and golf tournaments.
- Passion for soccer – it is, after all, Qatar’s most popular sport
However, since the bid was awarded, criticism has been strong. Primarily, it focused around:
- Weather – Despite stadium-cooling plans, the World Cup is typically held in June/July, and this would place outdoor temperatures well into triple digits. This could potentially have significant impact on athlete preparation, performance, and even health.
- Soccer Heritage – Qatar has yet to qualify for a World Cup
- Infrastructure – Imagine Massachusetts supporting hundreds of thousands of visiting fans, tourists, and reporters – if Massachusetts was a desert. While Qatar has over a decade to prepare, it will not be an easy task to successfully anticipate the burden on their infrastructure.
- Political tensions – Qatar has supported Iran’s nuclear research and development as a peaceful project.
- Human rights – Qatar has a substantial working class, primarily from South Asia, and has come under scrutiny for failure to address trafficking and related issues
Qatar has a singular desire to impress on an international stage, and they have taken another significant step by winning the bid for the 2022 World Cup. Though our perspective can be easily clouded by our preconceptions, it would behoove us to keep the above factors in mind as we evaluate the true success of this bid over the next decade.