On Thursday 2nd December 2010, football history was made as the winners of the 2018/2022 World Cup bids were announced. Polar geographical opposites, Russia and Qatar respectively, had nabbed the rights to host the World Cup on these two separate occasions, much to the surprise, and sadly, the horror of a worldwide audience.
Since Thursday night, a flurry of negative feedback has saturated news agencies, from both Western and Arab networks. Blogs, online newspapers, sport sites, Facebook-ers, Tweeters, radio stations and even President Obama, have dished lashings of sour commentary in response.
There have been some legitimate queries put forth, surrounding Qatar’s capability of fulfilling the promises made for the 2022 WC. Sadly though, most have been...well, bullshit.
I found this Wikipedia-driven article from the Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle particularly interesting.
Now, why do I care? I have lived in Qatar for the past 15 months and before this, for a significant chunk of my childhood, making this account more valid than any other article I’ve read since Thursday night. Note, I was rooting for the Aussie bid. I am also neither Qatari nor Muslim.
Before anything else, let me tell you, I have my qualms with this place. Anyone who knows me will tell you, adapting to Qatar’s norms and traditions has not been easy for me. I get to say this because I have experienced it firsthand. Yet the country commands my utmost respect and admiration.
Get your head in check, and read this; I guarantee you its xenophobe free; which is more than I can say for many others.
The four main concepts that FIFA require be highlighted within the final Bidding Files of each nation are: adequate infrastructure, legal conditions, operational elements and legacy. Let’s address them, shall we?
Where infrastructure is concerned, the Qatar bid’s pitch consisted of: twelve iconic stadiums to be built, each with a sufficient cooling system to harness the ridiculous 40 degree average temperatures of June/July.
A whopping $17 billion has also been set aside to accommodate the influx of spectators and aid Qatar’s desire to be regarded as a tourist destination.
The Doha Metro Network and a water taxi system, alongside existing taxis and buses, will have been developed for adequate transport.
The reality is this: up until Thursday, said development had been put on hold. However four stadiums were to be built regardless of the bid’s result. Can Qatar pull this off?
The promised zero carbon cooling equipment utilising solar energy is already in the works and will be tried and tested long before 2022. Fan zones and all means of transportation will also be air condition to an optimum 27 degrees.
One of the 12 stadiums designed for 2022
I have lived in Qatar through those months; it is not easy to handle but the country is well equipped to deal with the heat as everything is air conditioned.
Can Qatar manage to build the needed accommodation for a possible influx of over 10 million spectators?
In a 5 year span, Qatar has built the infrastructure necessary to host an array of sporting events: the 2006 Asian Games (13,000 athletes participated), the ATP Qatar Open (17 years strong) and the Qatar Masters golf tournament amongst other like events. So, yes.
A public transport system of the enormity spoken of for the 2022 WC has never really been needed in Qatar. With most of the population living in the capital, Doha, 132 square kilometers hardly calls for much more than a car.
However, a public transportation system has been in effect for several years, with noticeable efforts to encourage residents to utilise these in a bid to decrease the city’s carbon footprint.
Legal conditions have also had tongues wagging; as an active supporter of the ‘Palestinian cause’ Qatar has copped much flack over the past few days upon the bid’s chief executive, Hassan Al-Thawadi, announcing that, “...all participating nations are welcome” to the Qatar 2022 bid.
If that is not commitment to the global nature of the game, I don’t know what is.
The country does have a fairly strict residency criteria, however, and not unlike other WC hosts since 1930, the country is willing to make certain concessions for visitors during the 2022 event.
‘Football for Hope’ is the cornerstone of the FIFA corporate social responsibility program. Wether you love or hate him (I’m vouching most of you will opt for the second one there) Sepp Blatter wrapped up the 2018/2022 decisions as a bid to further the concept of legacy.
Neither country has hosted the WC before - England has, back in 1966, Japan and S.Korea in 2002, America in 1994 - so why not now?
Here is the argument thus far: the process is corrupt and voting was not based on merit. I’m neither denying nor agreeing with this.
Had the process ever been the puritanical procedure expected of FIFA, the World Cup would be the only event on earth that actually abides completely by an eligible letter of the law.
Doesn’t make it right, or fair, but if life were fair, I’d have lived in Qatar the two years Pep Guardiola played with Al-Ahli (2003-05). If you know where that world is, please point me in the right direction.
So far, I’d say albeit plans being slightly adventurous - yet certainly achievable where Qatar is concerned - the operational risk rating of the bid should not exceed that of somewhere like England.
Several articles emanating from namely, England and the US, have stated ludicrous claims that Qatar is a ‘dangerous’ place to be, where you could receive ‘90 lashes’ if you dared consume alcohol. Hang on, let me ring the state’s official ‘man-at-arms’. Come on.
Alcohol is widely available in numerous locations, and I have never been at a loss for a place to go for a drink or a dance. I have never been reprimanded for drinking. I would not advise you, however, to go stumbling through the streets with a wine cask. I’m sure we can all handle that.
Now, you want to talk about dangerous?
How about all those beer bottles used as weapons (alongside iron bars and concrete slabs of course) in the Millwall-Ipswich quarter final of 1978? And the riot at Luton in 1985, that eventually forced Maggie Thatcher, to set up a “War Cabinet” to combat football hooliganism?
Isn't he the cutest?
What about when West Ham United played American Columbus Crew in Ohio, summer of ‘08, and police had to restrain and even detain rival fans when a fight broke out, involving hundreds.
In England’s 1966 WC, the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen from it’s place of display, instigating a nation-wide search.
When FIFA chose America to host the 1994 WC, people the world over were shocked at the selection, as there appeared to be a certain lack of football fans. It was one of the most successful events in WC history, in terms of spectator numbers, infrastructure and legacy.
The point is this: every bidding country, be it for 2018 or 2022, has faced criticism of some sort. Each bidding nation has its fair share of pitfalls, be it distance, cultural constraint, financial capabilities, security (as was the fear in South Africa last year) and so on.
I live in Qatar. I know this country’s capabilities. I know it’s downfalls. I have never felt anything but safe here, I have always been able to provide for myself in the way that I please. I have been granted opportunities I could never have achieved elsewhere and have witnessed the country’s development firsthand.
If they say they will succeed, then they WILL succeed. I hope they do anyway.
And I hope next time Australia bid, they refrain from bribing. Or do so in a more discreet manner anyway.
To watch the final Qatari presentation, please click here.
To watch the 2022 announcement, please click here.