2nd of December 2010, there was talk of little else in the office apart from the voting for world cup hosts for 2018 and 2022. After all Qatar, my country of residence at that time was bidding and we were interested to know what happens. In my heart I gave Qatar no chance. Just not going to happen, there are too many problems, FIFA will never go for it, yet there was a sense of expectation. What if…. What if Qatar pulls it off? Everything will change for Qatar and I will finally be able to tell my family that this is where I live, not in Dubai (Which was the only Middle Eastern city they knew about. I left Qatar 2 months later anyway so didn’t really matter personally)
At around 5, I packed my bags and left for home. In case Qatar wins it, I didn’t want to get caught in the celebrations and spend hours in the traffic. Reached home, kicked away my shoes, opened the laptop and started following the event again. Few minutes before 7, it came, the most stunning announcement. Qatar had indeed done it; they were going to host the greatest sporting event in the world. Of course you didn’t need a TV or the internet to tell you that, the sound of car horns from outside was enough to tell you that Qatar has done the impossible.
A lot has been said about the bidding process since then. Most of it by people who have never been to Qatar and have no clue what its like. Questions have been raised about Qatar’s ability to host the event and the wisdom of giving the tournament to the gulf nation. I am just going to run through some of the problems raised and how Qatar can best resolve those issues (Just my opinion, you are free to disagree)
- Temperatures – This is of course the biggest issue. It is really hot during June/July and playing in those temperatures is going to be really difficult. I am not sure whether the cooling technologies will work for stadiums that size though it remains to be seen. Even if they get the stadiums, practice pitches and dedicated fan zones air-conditioned, it will be really difficult for visiting fans to move around. I doubt many will appreciate staying indoors and only in certain areas to avoid the heat.
Ideal solution is to shift the world cup to winter 2022. The weather is perfect from November to February and you can have a great event. Of course this will require a lot of rescheduling from European leagues and their cooperation is an absolute must. They have to move their dates around to create a window, November-December (Ideal) or even April-May when it is cooler than what people experienced in USA-94. January-February will clash with Winter Olympics so that has been ruled out.
- Human rights of workers– For the labourers working in Qatar, a global event like this is the best thing that could have happened. Construction boom has been there in Qatar for quite a while now but nobody bothered much about the conditions in which laborers are working. All of a sudden everyone is focusing on them and their working conditions, which has put a lot of pressure on construction companies to provide better working conditions.International scrutiny has meant that conditions for them have improved. Stricter laws and punishments for violators are being planned and improved working/living conditions for workers. Of course it is still not an ideal situation and I hope Qatar government cracks down on any human rights violation most strictly.
- Infrastructure- Qatar is building everything from scratch so there have been concerns over their ability to get everything ready in time. I think this should be the least of the worries. There is no shortage of money or ambition and they have a long time period ahead of them thanks to the decision to award 2022 tournament 12 years in advance. Stadiums, hotels, accommodations, metro, airport should be ready well within time unless someone screws up really bad.
- Alcohol – As of now alcohol is available in select hotels and through a Government authorized wine shop, QDC where you can buy if you have an alcohol license (Not hard to obtain). They have promised alcohol in fan zones as well during the world cup. I do hope they open more outlets like QDC for the duration of the world cup where visiting fans can buy alcohol. I lived in Qatar for over 2 years and never really had a problem getting a drink or 2 or 10 as I used to during that time. Of course you can’t drive around drunk or create any public nuisance but that is just the basic law. I wonder whether any country approves of that.
- Legacy– Qatar doesn’t have the strongest football team and doesn’t play too many high profile matches so what happens with the stadiums after the tournament. Most of the stadiums will be modular and will be shipped out to other countries after the tournament. As for Qatar national team, looking at the investment being done in the game through Aspire academy, I doubt Qatar will be pushovers come the 2022 event.
Just my random thoughts after reading about all the criticism of Qatar 2022 in recent days. I don’t think that is going away till 2022. We will see regular articles on that. This world cup will be different, one way or another 😉
*I lived in Qatar from 2009 to 2011