Qatar’s $300 Billion World Cup Is Headed For An Epic Comedown

Qatar's $300 billion World Cup is headed for a historic fight

Preparations for the World Cup shed some light on the Gulf’s “kafala” sponsorship system.

When Qatar was pulled out of the envelope as the future host of the World Cup in 2010, most football fans were skeptical that it would be possible to find it on the map.
A dozen years, $300 billion, and a flurry of controversies afterward, one of the most expensive marketing campaigns in history will culminate with the tiny Gulf state hosting the final on Sunday. Sunday between Argentina and France is expected to be watched by half the planet.

The inevitable question is whether the extravagance is worth it – even for a presenter with seemingly bottomless money. The organizers – especially FIFA – consider the event a complete success: a record TV audience, satisfied fans and a highly regarded brand. However, no matter how much soft power Qatar has gained from the tournament, its return to normal life will be an epic comedy.

After a month when more than 700,000 fans flock to Doha, Qatar will return to relative emptiness. Fans have begun to return home, and so have large numbers of migrant workers. Real estate agents fear apartments will remain unfinished, hotels will have excess rooms and some stadiums will never be used again.

Then there is Qatar’s international standing, even as it supplies almost a quarter of the liquefied natural gas imports that Europe is relying on to weather the winter. Before the focus of the World Cup turned to drama and chaos on the pitch, the country faced criticism over migrant worker rights and an aversion to LGBTQ pride symbols. That is unlikely to go away.

This week, Qatar was also the subject of headlines beyond the World Cup – a European Union corruption scandal involving allegations of bribery.

And next month will bring attention again to how one of the biggest sporting events was awarded to a tiny city-state in one of the hottest regions in the world as a lawsuit gets underway. An indictment filed in the US alleges several officials received payments to support Qatar’s bid. The country refuses to pay anyone for hosting rights.

“There will be some long-term benefits for the locals of Qatar,” said Christina Philippou, senior lecturer in sports finance at the University of Portsmouth in the UK. “However, if the whole point is to introduce Qatar to the world, then in that sense, I think there have been some less reputation-enhancing aspects. It was a very expensive advertising campaign and I not sure if it was a particularly successful campaign.”

There is no doubt that Qatar has made progress on workers’ rights after scrutiny by activists. A month before the tournament opened on November 20, the ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, told local lawmakers that some of the criticism was helpful for the country’s development. . But he also responded to what he called an “unprecedented campaign”, full of “fabrications and double standards” with questionable motives.

Preparations for the World Cup have shed light on the Gulf’s “kafala” sponsorship system for foreign workers, and although some of the human rights controversy in Qatar has subsided since the event began, Some groups that advocate for migrant workers say the pressure must continue.

“The end of the tournament is not a sign of the end of surveillance,” said Isobel Archer, Gulf program director at the Center for Business Resources & Human Rights in London. “Although FIFA and the Qatari government have repeatedly promoted the story that labor reform is the ultimate goal, we know from the workers themselves that implementation is still severely lacking.”

Qatar’s long-term goal is to help the league modernize its image and transform it into a tourist and business destination on par with regional rival Dubai. It is not without priority. Major sporting events have long been seen as catalysts for transforming cities.

The 1992 Barcelona Olympics is considered a typical sporting success story, bringing much-needed infrastructure and tourism to the then-struggling Spanish city. As the hype dwindles – as it did after the Athens Olympics and the European football championships in Portugal years later – criticisms of cost overruns and exaggeration of social benefits have grown. get a raise.

According to a recent paper from the University of Surrey in the UK, the economic benefits of hosting the World Cup every four years may well be a myth, with no apparent impetus immediately following the event.

Qatar is no different. Even before the World Cup ended, empty buildings littered the commercial and residential areas. According to the organizers, about 765,000 fans visited Qatar in the first two weeks of the tournament, down from the 1.2 million Qataris hoped to show up.

However, many of those who made the journey did not disappoint. The unexpected results – Saudi Arabia beating Argentina, Germany being eliminated early, Brazil losing to Croatia in the quarter-finals and Morocco advancing to the semi-finals – added to the convenience of the tournament being held in a single city. .

Jason Daley, an American who has attended every World Cup since 2006 and runs social media accounts that provide information about the tournament to fans, said: “It’s great to be able to see them all. different cultures and people, and it’s much more family-friendly.” “Compared to the last few World Cups, it’s incredibly easy to get through security and into stadiums.”

In a statement to Bloomberg News, a Qatari government official said: “Qatar has challenged skeptics that Qatar will not be able to host a successful World Cup. Some critics now acknowledge that The Qatar World Cup is the safest, the most family-friendly and most accessible to supporters around the world.”

It is unclear how Qatar will remain so attractive to tourists. After the winners leave Qatar’s Hamad International Airport – which is full of an indoor tropical garden complex – the world’s attention will quickly turn elsewhere.

Real Madrid football club is set to open a branded theme park next year, featuring games, games, a museum and souvenir shops. It’s a perfect post-World Cup attraction. But it will be in Dubai, not Doha.

Without a competitive local soccer league, many stadiums will be demolished or converted. Stadium 974 – derived from Qatar’s international dialing code – was built from shipping containers and will be dismantled after hosting a fashion show and concerts.

About 170,000 seats from other stadiums have been promised for developing countries. The remaining six stadiums will be reused as hotels, shopping malls or made smaller for local football teams, adding to the already oversupplied real estate market.

“Infrastructure, such as the metro system, will be built regardless of how the tournament is organized,” said Ross Griffin, assistant professor at Qatar University. “But it sets a convenient completion date for everything.”

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)

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