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Qatar to host 2022 World Cup 2, December 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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In a truly stunning announcement, football’s governing body FIFA, chose Qatar as the host of the 2022 World Cup.

While Qatar ran an excellent campaign, many assumed that there were simply too many hurdles for their bid to overcome: the staggering summer heat, the lack of a footballing heritage, the lack of a suitable transport infrastructure, the overwhelming lack of stadiums and hotels not to mention what was undoubtedly one of the worst FIFA technical reports. Yet they prevailed and will host the Arab world’s first World Cup.

This is a truly mammoth task that they have set for themselves. Doha will be a building site, or rather more of a building site, for the next decade. Not only this but somehow their football team must improve significantly if they are not going to be massively embarrassed in their own tournament.

Clearly, FIFA decided that they wanted the World Cup to go to new areas of the world, to attract new supporters and to embed football yet further outwith traditional arenas. Yet with Qatar, FIFA have also decided that they want a different type of World Cup. Qatar will have to promote much more of a family friendly atmosphere in lieu of providing huge open air areas for celebration and drinking as proved so successful in Germany 2006.

With both World Cup announcements (Russia were awarded the 2018 World Cup) FIFA have taken a risk in terms of infrastructure. Yet both Qatar and Russia come with the greatest oil and gas backed financial might; no matter what happens in their tournaments, FIFA can thus be guaranteed their return.

Aside from challenges facing Qatar tied to the bid, Qataris need to prepare themselves for a whole new level of international scrutiny: they will need to grow a thick skin. The lack of democracy, the role of women, their treatment of workers and their social restrictions will all come under close examination. What will happen when thousands of drunk supporters descend on Doha after a game is one of the big mysteries of Qatar’s World Cup. Their current method of dealing with this – often a night in the cells for public drunkenness – will need to be looked at.

Yet there are many years to critically look at Qatar’s bid. For the moment, we should all join in, offer our congratulations, and wish them the best of luck.


On Qatar’s World Cup ‘risk’ and the absurd Qatar Tribune 18, November 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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Compare and contrast the following headlines and excerpts.

This one is taken from Bloomberg

Qatar is Only ‘High Risk Candidate Among Nine Bidders to Host World Cup

This one from the BBC

The full report is also a blow to 2022 bidder Qatar, which receives a high risk rating in the overall operational assessment

This one syndicated from the Press Association Sport

The report, which has been seen by Press Association Sport, also looks to be highly damaging to Qatar’s hopes of hosting the 2022 World Cup as the Middle East bid has been given the only ‘high’ overall operational risk rating among the nine bidders for the two tournaments.

This one from ESPN sport

Among the 2022 bidding countries, Qatar is given a high overall operational risk rating.

And contrast them with this headline from the Qatar Tribune

FIFA places Qatar in low-risk category for 2022 World Cup

Hmm…let me think…

Firstly, it is important to note just how cringingly embarrassing this is for the Qatar Tribune and, to a larger degree, the notion of press freedom in Qatar. Yes, most people know that the domestic press in Qatar is hamstrung by a pervasive sense of self-censorship. Here and forever more is surely the best and clearest example of this in practice.

This kind of bilge is usually associated with Pravada, the Soviet Union’s ‘patriotic’ paper or the absurdly sycophantic press-release repeating national press agencies in the Middle East.

Reading the report, the Tribune’s take on the summary is monumentally blinkered and partial. While it is true that they have not outright lied – there is no section listing ‘high’ and ‘medium’ risk countries – they have woefully and purposefully misunderstood and miscommunicated the essence of the report.

As the NYT notes, there is a lot of ‘risk’ to go around, but it is deciphering between the risk that is the key. For example, England’s bid was cited for insufficient training facilities (how this does not apply to Qatar too, I’ve simply no idea…). Compare this to Qatar’s bid which poses a risk to the health of everyone involved in the World Cup from players to spectators!!

Manifestly, no bid could get a clean bill of health with no problems at all else they would simply have to win. So while this picky and frankly absurd problem with England’s bid is one thing, a health risk caused by the climate is wholly another.

Qatar can continue to trot out as many famous football backers as possible, with Alex Ferguson joining the throng last night, but this, if this report is to mean anything, will mean nothing whatsoever.

Evisceration of ‘a Qatar World Cup’ in The Times 16, November 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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The Chief sporting correspondent of The Times of London, Matt Dickinson, has written a scathing indictment of a would-be Qatari World Cup.

At times the article borders on what appears to be a deep-seated personal animosity, but, overall, I get the impression that Dickinson is simply genuinely angry at the thought of the World Cup being in Qatar. Not at all for any kind of nefarious, pseudo-racist, jingoistic reason as some may suggest given the severity of his critique, but because Dickinson is a passionate football fan and the key flaw in Qatar’s World Cup is that it would resolutely not put the fans first.

I quote at length as The Times is behind a pay-wall.

Anyone with money, sense or opportunity flees Qatar in June and July. Or stays indoors…The heat makes the place unbearable, with temperatures at 50C (122F)…They say it is possible to overcome this furnace. Hundreds of thousands of fans can move from air-conditioned hotels via air-conditioned trains to air-conditioned stadiums. Relaxation will be found in air-conditioned shopping malls.

Perhaps this sounds like your idea of fun. Perhaps you do not mind the idea of a World Cup in a sizzling sandpit the size of Jamaica.

But most of us quite like the idea of outdoors. Of freedom. Of not being trapped inside, least of all at a football tournament.

Clearly, the summer heat is a true and profound problem for Qatar. Dickinson’s assessment is unimpeachable: Qatar is a simply stinkingly and uncomfortably hot place in the summer. Yes, the stadiums will be cooled to some degree and yes there will be air-conditioned transportation and the like, but I really agree with Dickinson on this point: I don’t want to spend all my time in malls. I too like the outdoors and milling around in throngs of crowds enjoying one event. This is part of the World Cup experience.

And – devastatingly – as the American member of FIFA’s board has put it, “you can’t air-condition a whole country.”

While we can imagine Australia, to take just one of Qatar’s rivals, being galvanised to show itself as a great sporting nation, embracing its World Cup visitors, Doha lacks just about everything, including the stadiums, the hotels, the fans and the climate.

As for cultural exploration, it is going to get very crowded along the alleyways of Doha’s sweaty souk.

Harsh but fair, I suppose. Qatar is truly bereft of anything like the necessary infrastructure at the moment.

A World Cup in Qatar is a laughable idea so it shows what a farcical process the bidding has become that we have had to start taking it seriously.

While in England we are understandably preoccupied by the 2018 race, the greatest injustice of all could be played out in the 2022 vote if a combination of Qatari oil money and collusion secures victory for this little emirate over Australia or its main rivals, the United States.

Yet the possibility of vote-swapping between Qatar 2022 and Spain-Portugal 2018 could put both bids near the front of the grid.

Although the suspension of two executive committee members after a Sunday Times exposé is the main item on the agenda for Fifa’s ethics committee as it meets over the next few days, it is the collusion that has the most potential to warp the process.

And it will be impossible to stop in a secret ballot if Fifa is determined to go ahead with holding the 2018 and 2022 votes together on December 2. There was a proposal to postpone 2022 but Michel Platini, in his wisdom, was among the senior voices saying the show must go on, however lacking in credibility.

Qatar and Spain-Portugal deny any collusion but they could start with seven votes each, potentially taking the World Cup back to Spain, where it was staged more recently than in England, and to Qatar, where you can fry an egg on your car bonnet.

But Blatter must be sitting in his office wondering how to avoid the farce whereby the World Cup goes to a nation with a population less than Zurich’s and that has little if any use for all the stadiums, hotels and much of the infrastructure that would be built.Ensuring defeat for Qatar is vital if Fifa is to salvage any credibility. Trust in the organisation, and its processes, is already shot to pieces.

Quite the rant.

Yet Dickinson has many crucial points which, while forcefully made, are nevertheless valid. For Dickinson – a life-long football fan – a Qatari World Cup would simply represent a whole-sale rejection of what most fans actually want and a triumph of money over sense. This is the kernel of the issue that Qatar must overcome.