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Qatar 2022 teeters towards disaster 6, June 2014

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The following article can be found at the New America Foundation.

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For some time now, Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 football World Cup has looked to be far more trouble than its worth. Stinging media attacks have been relentlessly pillorying the state and its bid process, putting the country under a magnifying glass like never before. Human rights concerns and corruption issues have been the focus of much of the coverage and many are now questioning whether Qatar will – after all this trouble and difficulty – host the World Cup at all.

Indeed, the 2022 World Cup saga continues with a huge leak of emails to the Sunday Times in the UK, which the paper accompanied with 12,000 words of analysis castigating and criticizing the bid process. The emails printed by the Times do not necessarily reveal anything new in type, just volumes more damaging examples of people involved with the Qatari bid  – mostly Mohammed Bin Hammam, the Qatari former FIFA executive member – acting in…[consults lawyer]…unorthodox ways. Bin Hammam stands accused of, to put it charitably, being exceedingly overly generous to important delegates and other officials throughout the world with financial gifts and expenses. Much of this appears to flout FIFA rules.

The British media-led scrum to attack Qatar is at times neither accurate, with at the very least key names being repeatedly confused, nor edifying; but then again, that’s not what they are there for. They are there to sell copy and Qatar is thoroughly in their crosshairs of late. Indeed, the 2022 World Cup story combines a variety of tempting targets for the British press, tabloid and broadsheet alike: indignant rage, football, rich foreigners, human rights wailing, and glitzy corruption.

There is, as ever, a certain amount of hypocrisy surrounding this whole situation. The British press were, unsurprisingly, hardly as vociferous in their criticism when England shamelessly courted votes for the World Cup vote by playing friendly matches or wheeling out David Beckham, the former England captain, or Prime Minister David Cameron to woo specific voters. Equally, though, they did not engage in the kinds of mass expenditures that Qatar did to persuade key voters around the world.

Indeed, look at the Qatari bid. A key plinth of the bid was the promise to package up and ship off some of its stadiums to countries in need of stadia post-World Cup. Who decided the recipients of each stadium – and how – is unknown, but what is for sure is that if you are looking for a stadium, only with a successful Qatari bid do you stand a chance of receiving one.

Those in Qatar may well look to the rough ride they are getting and compare that to Russia who won the right to host the 2018 World Cup at the same ceremony as Qatar. Against a backdrop of increasing homophobia, rampant corruption, and energy extortion, Russia nigh-on invaded a sovereign state, annexed a section of that state using – to put it mildly – questionable means, yet in terms of football at least, Russia remains mostly ignored by the press. And, strangely, no one seems to be asking whether their bid was squeaky clean?

Yet understandably suffused with a concentration on Russia’s military shenanigans, the press has leapt over its bid and gone straight to the more salacious story in Qatar. Human rights have been front and center. Report afterreport has battered Qatar’s reputation and with often good reason. The standards for workers’ rights are simply not good enough. Ironically, this is the positive impact of the World Cup: it is fundamentally an agent of change in the country.In recent weeks the Qatari authorities announced changes and improvements to the scriptures that most trouble workers’ rights in the state. No, these changes are not enough, and their implementation remains to be seen. But this is unequivocally a step forward, and it is purely thanks to the pressure of the World Cup and its negative coverage.

Given a magic wand, I suspect that the new administration in Qatar that took over in summer 2013 would happily swap hosting the 2022 World Cup for an easier life. It has prompted tens of billions of dollars of spending, some of which is necessary (roads and a subway system) but much of which is seen as wasteful (stadiums and foreign consultants). While from the Western perspective, the incremental changes expected in the labor laws in Qatar are a good move, they are seen flatly as a pain and undesirable from the Qatari perspective: they want to retain control. Moreover, the 2022 World Cup is a touchstone issue that encapsulates the direction of travel in Qatar: that of a quasi-westernizing orientation with increasing openness to foreigners and their wanton ways; the perennial refrain being how will Qatar cope with drunk English football fans singing and swaying down the Corniche, the sea-side waterfront?

In lieu of a magic wand, Qatar’s elite will simply have to hunker down and lawyer-up. Whether the 2022 World Cup actually goes ahead is a question for legal professionals and FIFA insiders, not Gulf experts or Qatar’s elite. Qatar’s central concern at the moment is that one of their champions, Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s seemingly perennial President, has cooled his support recently, even calling Qatar’s hosting of the tournament a ‘mistake’. The moment that Blatter, who is running again for President (after he said he was not seeking re-election), sees more mileage in throwing Qatar under the bus to further his ambitions, Qatar has a big problem to add to its ever-growing list of 2022 issues.

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Another Qatar football debacle 7, February 2013

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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Sp Uru

When the World and twice-running European football champions are in town and playing the Copa América Champions, it would be rude not to go along and watch teams stuffed with the world’s best players. As much as I was looking forward to last night’s showpiece there was always a certain cynical reticence expecting the organisation around the event to be a mess.

It has been years since I saw England-Brazil in Doha, which was a disaster of planning including giving every fan in the stadium hard glow sticks to wave around in the dark, which soon became a rain of missiles pelting the front rows (who’d have thought?). Still, since Qatar has won the right to host the 2022 World Cup it must surely have learned how to organise one match by now…

Or not.

Traffic

There’s not a whole lot the 2022 folks can do about the traffic. But the fact remains that for 5k around the stadium the traffic was a complete disaster with a 15 minute journey to the Aspire complex (stadium area) taking over an hour. I don’t expect a subway system to be installed overnight but how about a park and ride system from key points in Doha? How about traffic police monitoring the road and stopping the hard-shoulder becoming the fast lane? How about advertising a few bus services? How about doing anything whatsoever aside from just ignoring the problem?

Entrance to stadium

‘Take your seats by 20:00’ the ticket said for the 21:00 kick-off. Sound advice but had anyone passed this nugget of information on to anyone working at the stadium? Walking around the stadium more or less each gate had long queues of people trying to get in as early as 19:30 (and doubtless before). My particular queue was a special one at somewhere around 200 metres long. I started queuing before 20:00 and didn’t get into the stadium until around 21:25, 25 minutes after kick-off and after the first goal.

I simply cannot fathom how they messed this up so badly leaving thousands of fans outside in interminably slow queues to miss the kickoff. You have x amounts of tickets sold and x amounts of seats (let’s leave the 2011 Asian Cup final debacle to one side for the moment) and the staff presumably know kick-off time. From there it is surely a fairly straight-forward formula?

I just can’t understand why all the major leagues in the world can manage this process on a weekly basis – checking tickets, checking security, etc – often for much larger crowds and yet Qatari authorities can’t manage this once every year.

Do they not realise they can’t actually organise a football match effectively yet? Surely they have an inkling in which case why not get Man Utd or Bayern Munich to show them how it is done – the teams are here often enough, get the ground staff too.

Adding to the rancour in the long-suffering queues was the usual issue of people pushing in left, right and centre with Qatar staff replete with red glowing batons standing around, having a chat doing – precisely literally – nothing.

By the time we got to the gate they weren’t even checking tickets and were just waving people in: lessons not learnt, it seems.

F&B

I arrived looking for a quick bite to eat before getting into the stadium; how foolish of me not to factor in the necessary waiting time (half an hour or more at a guess; I didn’t bother).

The trestle tables setup for the drinks were exactly like I remember from my school sports day complete with paper tickets for ‘water’, ‘drink’ and so on; a system they had abandoned. The people serving had no system (I serve, you do cash, etc) but it was just a free-for-all and – obviously – the person I dealt with couldn’t add up, stuffing the wrong amount of money into a torn cardboard box as the cash register.

Again, I just can’t understand the utter amateurism of this whole affair. Why not get a proper catering company in to do the job? Why not think a bit differently and have shawarma and karak stands dotted around instead of a couple inside the tents? I could have organised that myself in half an hour.

I am sure some things went right. They paid $4m to get Spain; well done. But I was far from alone in being utterly demoralised by this farce. I simply have no comprehension as to why Qatar continually spurns these opportunities to show that it can run a successful and largely trouble-free football match. Doubtless these things will be sorted by 2022 – though I said exactly the same thing two years ago – for at some stage someone will get around to experiencing a match in Qatar as a normal fan and not a VVIP…

PS

Incidentally, I can’t describe the contempt that I have for the Goebbels-esque reporting from an Al Jazeera correspondent gushing at the organisation; what a shamefully bad snippet of journalism.

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

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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.

Artificial clouds & solar shades: the sensible answer 25, March 2011

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As you know the World Cup in 2022 will be held in Qatar. More specifically, it will be held in the summer in Qatar. One need not be a meteorologist or a veteran of the Gulf to know that this is not the world’s most sensible idea (as FIFA’s own technical report noted).

Still, c’est la vie and all that.

To counter the gross heat two super ideas have surfaced in the past few days: Artificial clouds and a floating solar powered shade. Great ideas. What can possibly go wrong?

But even were I to  – grudgingly – cover up my eternal cynicism for a moment or two, it must be pointed out that these ideas are really rather exceedingly far from remotely solving the problems. Crucially, the oppressive humidity will still be around (if not made worse by extra cloud cover). Back to the drawing board, fellas.

Hat tip: Oli Kay & Doha News

A summer World Cup: decisions, decisions 27, February 2011

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The question of whether Qatar’s 2022 World Cup will be held in the summer of some other time of year continues.

It was, of course, initially planned as a summer event. But soon after Qatar rather astonishingly won the right to host the tournament, there were several quotes emanating from the great and the good at FIFA (Blatter and Platini) stating that the tournament would probably be moved out of Qatar’s baking and, according to their own technical report, “potentially dangerous” summer heat.

These notions were soon quashed by people from Qatar’s organising committee.

Yet now the Emir, Hamad Al Thani, has once again raised the notion that this might change as he will “ask the people [Qataris]” what they want. The saga continues.

Qatar to review recruitment 9, December 2010

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The Qatari Government has announced that it is to review its recruitment policies to prepare for World Cup 2022. Thus far, there are no specifics on what they will do.

Clearly, to build the stadiums and the infrastructure for the competition, Qatar will need yet more workers from abroad. There are, so far as I see it, two points of concern that they need to be aware of.

At the moment Qatar is on the watch list to enter tier 2 on the US State Department’s people trafficking watch list. The lowest tier is tier 3. In a simple ‘moral sense’ but also for a country as concerned with its international image as Qatar, this is not good enough. I expect that Qatar will be able to use the enormous bonus – this reputed $50 billion – as a carrot to persuade the business community to adopt more humane practices as the government has pressed for in the past.

A second concern is the potential inflationary pressures that such a staggering potential input into the Qatari economy may well bring. Qatar has struggled in recent years with inflation and it has been brought under control only in the past year or so. Though I am no economic expert, I fail to see how such an amount of money in such a small state can but bring on inflation.

Economists’ comments are welcome…

 

Qatar 2022 and the future of the Middle East 3, December 2010

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It matters not if you are a pauper or a Prince; from time to time everyone suffers from the green eyed monster. Until its spectacular demise, Dubai grew covetous glances from around the region. Since then Abu Dhabi and Qatar have been quietly vying to fill the space. Abu Dhabi hosts the über luxurious and glamorous F1 Grand Prix and promises a whole island’s worth of cultural delights. Qatar led with an emphasis on education and a cultural approach, trumpeting its American Universities, Tribeka film festival and a stunning Islamic art museum.

Kuwait meanwhile has been too busy infighting to agree on any strategy to compete, Saudi Arabia is hamstrung by a repressive social atmosphere and Bahrain does not have the cash to compete meaningfully; their F1 Grand Prix being something of a hang-over from the ‘good old days’.

Yet by winning the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar has catapulted itself to the top of this imaginary league. In terms of a global audience and prestige, nothing but the Olympics comes close. This is a coup of epic proportions for Qatar and – make no mistake – is a seminal moment in the entire history of the state.

Despite official congratulations for Qatar, therefore, I have not one doubt that in private there are howls of derision and anger ringing around the Palaces of the Gulf. Outwith this micro-region, Egypt are long-term antagonists if not enemies of Qatar and Mubarak will viscerally hate this little upstart of a country grandstanding and upstaging Egypt so effectively time and again. Those in the Levant will be shaking their heads marvelling at what the money of oil Sheikhs will buy them while the Iranians will be working out how best to use this to their advantage.

Expect, therefore, a flurry of op-eds in the near future offering any number of back-handed compliments.

‘Yes, well done to little, rich, plucky Qatar’ they will patronisingly muse, ‘but hosting such a large tournament in such a small country is madness and they will have to spend tens of billions etc etc’.

It is interesting to note that one of the key reasons for Qatar’s success is the fact that it is hoped that the World Cup can in some way, shape or form, bring the Middle East together. Of this I have no doubt: Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s President will be creating space on his mantle piece for his Nobel Peace Prize.

Yet this optimistic view woeful misunderstands the curiously bitter disputes that riddle the Arab Middle East. Even, as mentioned earlier, among the Gulf States, a broadly homogenous group of people in terms of religion, language, culture, ethnicity and history, there are remarkably prickly relationships in evidence.

While in public, Qatar’s Arab brethren will have to ‘come together’ and support Qatar such will be the public support of having a football tournament so close to them, I fully expect no end of snipey remarks for, well, over a decade.

Does Blatter stand any chance of getting his Peace Prize? Two factors strike me as favourable in this regard.

First, 2022 is a long time away. This potentially allows some long-term-thinking negotiating, offering a natural and unmoving deadline. A skilful negotiator could potentially use this to his/her advantage.

Second, now that Qatar has the World Cup, the only possible greater prize is securing Middle East peace. And I’ve no doubts that they will redouble their efforts towards this aim, again, using 2022 as a categorical deadline.

Clearly, militating against some kind of resolution is the rather obvious fact that this conflict is epically intractable and requires a difficult confluence of peace and politics in the Arab world, Palestine, Israel and America.

Perhaps Qatar would be wise to seek to role together a united Arab front using the World Cup as a truly pan-Arab event to press on the conflict. Yet, as described above, it will be difficult to persuade chauvinistic Arab countries to follow Qatar’s lead at the best of times, let alone when they have just been awarded the kudos-busting largest tournament on earth.

Yet, if one has learned anything from the past few day’s events, it is that one must never bet against Qatar. It is infinitely more than simply a very rich country. Qatar has a wealth of outstanding individuals that are gifted, world-class business people and its newer generations are shaping up to be the best educated Arab generation in history.

While it is crucial to acknowledge the staggering challenges that Qatar still faces in its quest to host a superb World Cup, as its rivals fear, Qatar could well be the future of the Middle East.

How Qatar won the World Cup 2022 3, December 2010

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£££

Clearly money paid a large role. There is no denying that the two bids with the most financial backing and the worst technical reports won and that their liquidity played, in my view, a large part in this. But this is the way that it goes. They have nothing to apologise for; they simply did what they did better than the other nominees. Yes, it’s hardly an Athenian spirit of fair play, but that is the way that FIFA have set it up.

Diplomacy

Qatar is a new, rich and tiny country: a ‘pimple’ on Saudi Arabia as one recent article disparagingly described it. The vast majority of the population are ex-pats of one stripe or another who do the vast majority of the work (obviously enough). Add these facts together with a bit of semi-racial profiling and people simply assumed that the Qatari delegates would set about their work smoking shisha, eating hummus, listening to Fayrouz and walking around with a sack of cash, dolling it out.

However, the new generation of Qataris as exemplified by the bid’s director, are well educated, erudite, intelligent, savvy and successful. The fact that Qatar nearly won in the very first round of voting is a truly staggering testament to the success of their pre-vote diplomacy. Yes, of course, having deep pockets allowed grander promises to be made, but I think that it will have needed far more than that. For example, securing the sole rights to pitch their bid at the Confederations of African Football last year – locking out all other bidders – appears to have been something of a master-stroke.

Not only this but instead of England’s notion of setting up a fund which would be spent on the world’s developing countries football infrastructure, Qatar had whole stadiums to give away: many of their stadiums are modular.

The Middle East

Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s President, is – as we say in the UK – no shrinking violet. He adores the lime-light and equally adores the massive amounts of power that his job offers him.

I honestly think that one of the key factors that won Qatar the World Cup is the notion that it could – no, really – bring ‘peace to the Middle East’. However absurd the notion, however much this ignores manifest facts on the ground, however much Qatar winning the world cup would have been celebrated through gritted teeth throughout the region (i.e. intra-Arab rivalry) I believe that Sepp believes that there is a chance that this could be a catalyst for peace. Perhaps he is right?

One thing I will say is that having a date set over a decade into the future might allow negotiations to pick a point in time; a backdrop.

And Sepp, I think, can see himself going to Stockholm, collecting his Nobel peace prize and dedicating it to the power of football. Sepp is stepping down soon, he wants a legacy and Qatar’s bid with this associated ‘perk’ by some distance offers the greatest possible opportunity for fame and, essentially, immortality.

Markets

Russia winning the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 clearly shows that FIFA are adamant that the World Cup must seek out new areas of the world. The Middle East offers a modest population that already has a keen interest in football, some of whom are exceedingly rich. Moreover, Qatar has exceedingly strong links to the Indian sub-continent and, of course, to the Muslim world at large: this, perhaps, is the key (1 billion+) demographic that FIFA is aiming at.

The bid, stadiums, presentation?

Overall, I think that the presentation in Zürich made no difference whatsoever. England gave what was universally agreed to be the best presentation (including the Prime Minister, the future King and the world’s most famous footballer) and had arguably the best technical report, yet did not make it past the first round. Clearly, by the time of the presentations, all votes had already been decided.

So while Qatar’s presentation was excellent too and their stadiums are stunning, I do not really believe that these contributed significantly.

 

The pros and cons of Qatar’s 2022 bid 20, September 2010

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On 2nd December  FIFA will decide who will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Qatar is hoping that, despite being widely seen as a rank outsider, it will be selected as the host country for the 2022 event. Here are a few ‘pros and cons’ of Qatar’s bids as I see them.

Money

Qatar can promise to iron out practically any issues with oodles of cash. Only this week, they were deemed to be the richest country in the world per capita. This means that you can buy the endorsement of top-level ex-footballers like Zinedine Zidane, Ronald De Boer and Pep Guardiola. Also, at the Confederation of African Football on the eve of the African Cup of Nations, Qatar bought the rights to be the only contender officially allowed to promote themselves to the delegates and dignitaries.

Money also means that Qatar’s public transport infrastructure can be wholly overhauled to a potentially unrivaled degree. This would be wholly necessary. Currently Doha’s public transport systems are poor and thousands of fans were left stranded after the England-Brazil match last year after no-one saw fit to arrange any kind of public transport whatsoever.

Stadiums

Qatar’s bottomless pot of money means that they can build stunning stadiums that would undoubtedly impress FIFA and create a fantastic spectacle.

(It is interesting to note that Qatar plans a stadium with wraparound uber wide-screen TVs on the outside; some 420,000 square feet of them, to be precise. This advertising bonanza will, I’d have thought, catch on.)

Middle East

The fact that neither the Middle East nor a Muslim country has hosted a World Cup augers in Qatar’s favor with FIFA always looking to further football’s reach. The 370,000,000 ‘Middle Easteners’ already have significant interest in football and if Qatar can dexterously market themselves, they could perhaps draw in more Muslims from across Asia into football too.

The other side of this particular coin is that Qatar sits between Saudi Arabia and Iran not all that far from Iraq. Whilst it is a peaceful little place with only one terrorist incident of note in recent years along with sporadic (minor) Iranian attacks on their oil and gas facilities, simply being in the dreaded “Middle East” is too much for some people.

Small

I’m not surprised that Qatar say that they want to host “a new type of World Cup”. Indeed, the ‘compact’ nature of Qatar mandates that the World Cup be played over an area vastly smaller than ever before. The largest distance between stadiums in Qatar 2022 is to be less than 130km whereas, at the opposite end of the scale with Russia’s 2018-2022 bids, there would be a distance of just under 2500km between its furthest stadiums.

It is up to Qatar to turn its size into an asset and not a liability. At the moment, there are not remotely enough hotels in the whole country. For example, during the Asian Games held in 2006, guests had to stay in Bahrain and be flown and shipped in. Doha is a nest of cranes at the moment, with most seemingly building hotels. But the World Cup would mean – quite literally – that land of the Qatar Peninsula would ‘host’ the most amount of people in its history: a strange thought. Whether enough hotels, transport links, restaurants, public toilets, taxis and visas can be issued and constructed in time is a serious challenge. (On the latter point, Qatar’s poorly thought-out plans to introduce ‘no visa on arrival’ for tourists will surely mark them down.)

Conservative

Qatar is a conservative Muslim country. It is impossible to buy alcohol (legally) anywhere but high-end hotels and restaurants at extortionate prices or at a government-run warehouse for resident ex-pats with the proper documentation. While FIFA is unlikely to care about the price of a pint for the average fan, they must surely take into account fans’ perspectives to some degree.

It would be politically difficult domestically and internationally for Qatar to open up any kind of open-air fan park where alcohol is available, as Germany did to much acclaim. Currently, any kind of public drunkenness is punished by a night in the cells or worse. The thought of thousands of celebratory or downhearted England fans, shirts off, singing and shouting raucously on Doha’s corniche does not – at the moment – bear thinking about. I see no easy way around this for Qatar aside from a difficult but sensible temporary amnesty (or extreme leniency) towards merry fans.

Heat

One of the key issues for Qatar is its scorching and sweaty summer. Temperatures easily reach 50 degrees C and the humidity is oppressive: even the natives of the Gulf (i.e. the ones that are ‘used’ to the heat) leave in droves for Beirut and London during the summer.  The World Cup would be held – from this perspective – at the worst time of year. Qatar has, therefore, invested in cooling technologies. The pitches are to be cooled to a pleasant 19 degrees C and fans in the stadiums too will have some kind of AC. Though, of course, the rest of Doha will be baking and unpleasant. The power for this cooling will come from solar power harnessed by the stadiums themselves: a nice green point even if open-air AC is intrinsically hideously wasteful.

However, football teams at the tournaments need training facilities – 2 pitches per team, I believe. So 32 teams means that 64 grass pitches that are air-conditioned to a height of 2 meters will need to be constructed. This is, as far as I see it, a key problem. Any notion that Qatar’s World Cup will be ‘green-friendly’ wholly disappears unless Qatar plans to incorporate solar technology into all 64 (temporary) training pitches too, which, in and of itself, would lead to a colossal use of resources.

Avoiding white elephants

Currently, Qatar’s population is around 1.6 million of whom less than a quarter of a million are Qataris. To avoid the curse of the white elephant (which, I fear, South Africa will suffer harshly from) Qatar plans to remove the upper tiers of their stadiums and ship them to developing countries. This PR exercise will go towards promoting their green and wholesome credentials and reduce the chance of too many stadiums being far too big after the World Cup.

So…

Qatar’s stadiums and other beautiful attractions would impress all fans as would the compact and likely friendly atmosphere. However, the temperature is truly extremely uncomfortable and a Qatari World Cup would be hideously expensive for the average fan unless the Government subsidized accommodation. Yet none of this is of primary importance to FIFA. They’d be chauffeured from plush 5 star hotels to plush 5 star VVIP areas in the air conditioned stadiums and back again. Their interest is – without wishing to seem too cynical – primarily monetary. While a Qatari World Cup would be profitable, not only is Qatar a risk but England, Australia and America can offer an unmatched scale and guarantees. If FIFA feel like taking a risk then Russia, backed with their own billionaires and autocratic ‘get zee job done’ government mentality, arguably represents a safer risky bet.

Qatar 2022 World Cup bid locks out England (et al) 8, January 2010

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Qatar’s 2022 World Cup team have locked out all other hosts for presenting at the Confederation of African Football (CAF). The event held on the eve of the Africa Cup of Nations due to start this month is seen as a key opportunity for the different football federations to meet, schmooze, impress, corral and cajole the Africa delegates for their precious votes. However, Qatar has used practically their own advantage, their deep, deep pockets, and has bought exclusive sponsorship rights for the event. Under this “dubious” agreement, no other federation can be formally seen or heard by CAF executives.

The Times of London also reports that Qatar sponsored the Soccerex in South Africa last September. Yet in this case other football federations were nevertheless allowed to officially send delegations. They could and did, therefore, organise press conferences and distribute promotional material, unlike at the CAF event.

This is a savvy tactic by the Qatari Federation. They must surely be aware that they are rank outsiders in this event. They have neither the history, the pedigree, the climate, the experience or the infrastructure that would favour them in obtaining the hosting rights. They are wise to use their practically unlimited finds to, in any way possible, buy as many votes as possible. This is not to begrudge this tactic or to call it into question. To imagine that other federations do not seek to buy votes in other ways would be woefully naïve.