Back in 2010, it was doubtful the majority of football fans could locate Qatar on a map when Qatar was announced as the World Cup’s host.
On Sunday, the tiny Gulf state will host a final between Argentina and France that’s expected to be watched by half the world after a dozen years, $300 billion, and a raft of controversy.
Even for a host with seemingly endless resources, the question is whether the extravaganza was worth it. A record TV audience, happy fans and a burnished brand are seen as outright successes by the organizers – particularly FIFA. The return to normality will be an epic comedown, regardless of how much soft power Qatar gained from the tournament.
Qatar will be relatively empty after a month when over 700,000 people descended on Doha. Fans and migrant workers have already begun returning home. Some stadiums will never be used again, and apartments will remain unfinished, according to real estate agents.
In addition, Qatar supplies a quarter of Europe’s liquefied natural gas imports to get through the winter, despite its international standing. Prior to the World Cup, the country faced criticism about the rights of migrant workers and an aversion to LGBTQ pride signs. It’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
A European Union corruption scandal involving bribery allegations has also made headlines this week about Qatar.
As a court case gets underway next month, the spotlight will turn back on how a major sporting event was handed over to a tiny city-state in one of the world’s hottest regions. Qatar’s bid was allegedly backed by payments to several officials in the US. Hosting rights are not paid for by the country.
Qatar’s local population will benefit in the long run, according to Christina Philippou, a senior lecturer in sports finance at the University of Portsmouth. I think there have been some less reputation-enhancing aspects of this ad campaign if the whole purpose was to showcase Qatar to the world. It’s been a very expensive campaign and I’m not sure how successful it has been.”
In spite of criticism from activists, Qatar has made progress on workers’ rights. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the ruling emir, told lawmakers that criticism was beneficial to the country’s development a month before the tournament kicked off. He also attacked an “unprecedented campaign,” which he called filled with “fabrications, double standards, and dubious motives.”
The World Cup preparations shed light on the Gulf region’s “kafala” sponsorship system for foreign workers, and although some controversy surrounding Qatar’s human rights has faded since the event began, some groups advocating for migrant workers insist more pressure must be A Gulf program manager for the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre in London, Isobel Archer, said the tournament was not a sign of the end of scrutiny. Although FIFA and the Qatari government have repeatedly pushed the narrative that labor reforms were the end goal, workers themselves tell us implementation remains lacking.”
It was Qatar’s long-term goal to make the tournament a tourist and business destination comparable to its regional rival Dubai. There is precedent for this. Cities have long been transformed by major sporting events.
Barcelona 1992 was seen as the archetypal sporting success story, bringing much-needed infrastructure and tourism to the then-struggling Spanish city. The hype of the Athens Olympics and the European football championships in Portugal years later faded as criticism grew over cost overruns and exaggerated social benefits.
According to a recent paper from the University of Surrey in the UK, the economic benefit of hosting the quadrennial World Cup may also be a myth.
It is no different in Qatar. There are empty buildings in the city’s business and residential districts even before the World Cup is over. According to organizers, 765,000 fans visited Qatar during the first two weeks of the tournament, short of the 1.2 million Qatar hoped to attract.
Those who made the trip weren’t disappointed, however. Saudi Arabia beating Argentina, Germany leaving early, Brazil losing to Croatia in the quarter-finals, and Morocco reaching the semi-finals added to the convenience of the competition being held in one city.
I enjoy seeing all the different cultures and people, and it’s much more family friendly,” said Jason Daley, an American who has attended every World Cup since 2006 and runs social media accounts about the tournament. The process of going through security and entering the stadiums has been incredibly smooth compared to the last few World Cups.”
The Qatari government official said in a statement to Bloomberg News that Qatar defied the skeptics who thought it would not be able to host a successful World Cup. It has now been acknowledged by some critics that the Qatar World Cup has been the safest, most family friendly and accessible World Cup ever.”
The future of Qatar’s tourism industry is unclear. As soon as the winners depart Qatar’s Hamad International Airport, with its indoor tropical gardens, the world’s attention will shift elsewhere.
The Real Madrid football club will open a themed park next year that includes rides, games, a museum, and memorabilia stores. Post-World Cup, it’s a great attraction. However, it will take place in Dubai, not Doha.
In the absence of a competitive local football league, many stadiums will be dismantled or converted. Stadium 974, named after Qatar’s international dialing code, will be dismantled after a fashion show and concert.
It is estimated that 170,000 seats from other stadiums will be transferred to developing nations. The remaining six stadiums will be repurposed for hotels, shopping, or smaller football fields, adding to the oversupply of real estate.
According to Ross Griffin, assistant professor at Qatar University, “The infrastructure, such as the metro system, would have been built regardless of the tournament being hosted. But the tournament provided a convenient deadline.”
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