The awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar last Thursday is great news for the country’s construction industry. It solidifies plans for billions of dollars in construction spending in the tiny nation over the next eleven and a half years. Qatar will make major renovations to three existing stadiums (or is it stadia?) and construct nine new ones scattered around Doha. Planned transportation improvements such as a new airport, deep water port and rail and highway systems will be fast-tracked. They plan to nearly double the number of hotel rooms from the current supply of 50,000 to 95,000 rooms in order to meet the demand of the expected 400,000 visitors during the World Cup. Overall, Qatar will spend an amazing $50-billion to construct the infrastructure needed to host a successful world sporting. I’m very excited to point out that most of this new infrastructure will be built from concrete!
There have been immediate criticisms of the selection of Qatar over the many hopefuls in more traditional World Cup nations. Critics point to Qatar’s poor human rights record with respect to women and immigrants. They question the ability of such a small nation, with only 1.7 million people, to host the world’s biggest sporting event. They also point to alleged corruption during the voting and awarding process.
Well if you think that corruption in the process only existed in the case of Qatar, then you are mistaken. Greasing the rails is part of the process. It always has been and is unlikely to change any time soon. It may not be right, but it is not a reason to exclude Qatar.
As far as Qatar’s ability to host – this will not be a problem at all. They may be a very small country, but Qatar possesses seemingly unlimited wealth. As the world’s largest exporter of natural gas, Qatar has become extremely rich. They have more than enough resources needed to build everything they have promised to FIFA.
More troubling to most is the issue of human rights. Poor treatment of South Asian workers is an ongoing issue and the harsh treatment of women is a serious sore spot with the international community. But it is here that Qatar made perhaps its strongest argument to the voters of FIFA. Pointing to what he called FIFA’s bravery in choosing South Africa in 2010, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani exhorted FIFA to again take a “bold gamble” and bring the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time. FIFA has a mandate to take the World Cup to “new lands” and believes that by doing so they can effect positive change in these regions of the world. I believe they are right and as evidence I point to the fact that just three days ago, few people were talking about human rights in Qatar. Today and for the next decade or more, it will get plenty of attention.
World Cup in Qatar? I’m planning my trip already!