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Headlines from Euro 2012: lessons for Qatar 10, June 2012

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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Many attention-grabbing headlines have emerged from Euro 2012 thus far. Few have had to do with the football. Similarly, rather than the ball crashing into the back of the net or a player launching himself into a full-blooded block of an opponent’s shot, to my mind, it is this picture that has been by far the most arresting image of the tournament thus far.

After a few days of these headlines, I have drawn the preliminary conclusion from the available evidence that racism and homophobia are unfortunately still indelible in the Ukraine and Poland. I’m not drawing this conclusion from one story, one incident, or one documentary, but there seems to be a pathology of such incident thus far (and the tournament is only a few days old!) that means that my take-away conclusions are that, (1) it was ridiculous that this tournament was given to these countries, (2) I deeply don’t want to visit these places.

I stand ready to be corrected if anyone wants to point out that the eight or nine incidents thus far were merely…umm…coincidence, but either which way, I doubt very much whether this was the message Poland and the Ukraine wanted the world to see by hosting these tournaments.

Qatar in 2022 will have similar problems. No, I’m certainly not suggesting that Qataris will be attacking gay campaigners like in this photo or that Qataris will be at all rude, even, chanting offensive slogans or anything of this nature. But the message that Qatar wants to put across to the world by hosting this tournament will get filtered through the international media who will pick up on some decidedly non-football related stories and run with them.

In the Qatari context, perhaps it will be the police taking away a drunk fan? Or corralling a group of rowdy, intoxicated England fans back into whatever football-drinking pens have been established. Qataris will reply that such incidents take place at every tournament but are not so salaciously splashed across the headlines. They will be right, of course, but being right is not really enough. As a country I think that Qataris will need to develop a tough skin over the coming few years.

Many seemed to be wholly bewildered by the storm of criticism that rang out after they were awarded the World Cup. Much of this was, indeed, unfair but such is life. Hosting the largest sporting tournament on earth is going to put Qatar under the microscope like never before. Qatar and Qataris need to accept this – this is the Faustian bargain that they have made – and hire some PR people to deal with these incidents as and when they occur.


1. Anonymous - 10, June 2012

I think there will be a big focus (as in the UAE) on the quality of life of the foreign labourers who build the place but don’t get paid much, similar to the way some people used the Beijing Olympics to aim at the Chinese government’s human rights/Tibet record. Overall however, China received a big PR boost from hosting the Olympics and Qatar stands to do the same. However, I remain unconvinced that the Qatar World Cup will actually happen – of course it may well do, but it might not. Also think it’s a shame it’s not a GCC World Cup rather than just Qatar.

thegulfblog.com - 10, June 2012

There’ll certainly be a rash of stories about workers’ rights. Given that this is a given, they should be sorting this issue out now…

2. Rohan Venkat (@RohanV) - 10, June 2012

Plenty of stories about worker’s rights. Lots of ‘suppressed dissent’ pieces. Alcohol will be a big thing as well as, I expect, the different way the authorities deal with Western football tourists and those pouring in from the East (that being a selling point of holding a World Cup in the Gulf).

The interesting thing to consider is what will be the storylines a decade away in 2012? If 2011 was the year of Qatar’s punch-above-its-weight pieces, and this year is the counter to that, will we have the ‘end-of-the-Qatar-bubble’ pieces? Or will we have a credible renewable energy form that threatens to move the spotlight (and bank accounts) away from this part of the world?

thegulfblog.com - 10, June 2012

Hmm…a very interesting point. Something to ruminate upon.

3. Jake Logan - 16, June 2012

Thanks for the seagull comments. Swoop down, crap and then swoop back up. As as person who is in Kyiv enjoying the Euro, I’ve seen none of what you have described. Get off your chair and travel to this country ten you’ll be in a position to provide commentary. Otherwise retreat to your obviously delusional world where everyone is supposed to be oh so civilized and we all get along.

I wish Qatar good luck with their games. If they come off half as well as what Kyiv ha put on it will be a great tournament.

thegulfblog.com - 16, June 2012

What an idiotic comment.

Life is about choices. I have a limited amount of time to go on holiday to places and so I make decisions on where to go based on evidence. The available evidence that I’ve seen – and I’ve said that I remain ready to be convinced otherwise – shows that these places seem to have something of an issue with racism, homophobia [do you think those guys were just playing with that chap in the picture?] and institutional hooliganism. This evidence, limited as I note it is, affects my conclusions as to where I want to go. This seems really quite reasonable and normal to me. My instinctive reaction is not to be an intrepid investigator and go see whether there is a load of hooliganism or whatever in Ukraine; that’s not what my holidays are for.

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