Qatar is a small, oil and gas-rich country on the north-eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula. Its population of less than 2.6 million is dwarfed by the 11 million people who live in the UAE, Qatar’s eastern neighbour across the Gulf. Qatar has for decades punched above its weight regionally and internationally due to its enormous oil and gas wealth. That wealth has allowed it to bankroll regional allies such as Hamas in Palestine and rebel groups in Libya at various points over the past decade. When Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other regional powers launched an embargo against Qatar in 2017, they accused it of destabilising the region – allegations that Doha denies. The country’s ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has also sought to position his state as a player on the global stage. It was announced last year that it will host football’s 2022 World Cup – despite concerns over high temperatures during June and July, when matches are traditionally held.
The oil and gas-rich Gulf state is investing a lot of time and money into making the World Cup a success.
Qatar has spent billions of dollars on stadiums and infrastructure. It’s spending billions more on a new metro system, a new airport, a new seaport and hotels. The country will also have to deal with the largest influx of people in its history—more than 1 million visitors are expected during the World Cup alone.
In addition to hosting games at eight stadiums around the country, Qatar is building new roads and infrastructure like metro systems and high-speed railways needed to get fans from one venue to another. Through 2022, these projects will cost more than $200 billion—or about twice as much as Turkey spent for its own World Cup in 2002 (adjusted for inflation).
After it was awarded the 2022 tournament back in 2010 by FIFA’s executive committee amid allegations of corruption surrounding votes from several countries’ representatives (including France), Qatar promised an “unprecedented legacy” that would include an affordable legacy for football supporters around the world: “A lasting legacy on all levels including economic growth through job creation; development through education; training; health care provisioning; social support infrastructure development; community participation initiatives which promote good governance principles including transparency”
But it’s also using the event to boost its position in the region.
Qatar is a small country with a lot of money. It’s not just hosting the 2022 World Cup, but also hopes to host other events, like the Olympic Games in 2024 or 2028 (depending on who wins).
But it’s not just about sports. Qatar has invested heavily in the region and has become an important player in several sectors, from energy to finance:
A growing scandal over alleged bribery in Fifa led to Qatar winning the bid to host the 2022 World Cup in 2010.
Why is Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup?
Qatar won the bid in 2010 to host the 2022 World Cup. It was the first time that a Middle Eastern country had been chosen to host soccer’s most prestigious event, and it marked a huge step forward for Arab nations’ involvement in international sports.
But corruption scandals within Fifa led to an investigation into whether Qatar used bribery to win its bid. According to The Guardian, there were suspicions of money laundering during Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani’s visit with prince William in 2008—and the prince allegedly said “it would be great” if England won its bid for World Cup 2018. That same year, former Fifa president Sepp Blatter visited Qatar on behalf of France Football magazine; later they gave their support when FIFA voted on which country would host World Cup 2022 (FIFA usually votes months before an election).
The bidding process has since been called into question by several key figures who say there were irregularities or outright bribes involved; these include disgraced former executive committee member Chuck Blazer—who pled guilty last year—and former Uefa president Michel Platini who said he felt pressured by Nicolas Sarkozy’s government into supporting France’s successful campaign for Euro 2016 rather than Germany or Turkey (both countries had better stadiums than France).
Now, relations with key neighbours Saudi Arabia and the UAE have soured.
The Gulf neighbours are also unhappy with Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which they see as a threat to their regimes.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE were also angered when Qatar supported Iran after Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Tehran in 2017 following an attack on its embassy in Tehran by protesters. They were further angered by Qatar’s support for Hamas, while it has also been accused of backing the Taliban in Afghanistan.
James Montague reports on why Qatar may be hosting football’s biggest tournament.
James Montague is a journalist and author who has written extensively about the World Cup. In his book The Billion-Dollar Game, he describes how Qatar won FIFA’s bid to host the 2022 tournament. He says that Qatar is using the World Cup to boost its credentials as an influential global player. Montague says that hosting football’s biggest tournament will “put Qatar on the map” and allow it to compete with countries like France or Germany in terms of influence and prestige.
Qatar hopes to use its hosting of the World Cup to boost its credentials as an influential global player.
The World Cup is a chance for Qatar to show off its wealth and influence, which it says will benefit the entire Middle East region.
“This tournament is important for us because we are showing ourselves as a country that has power,” said Faisal bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, executive vice chairman of Dubai-based conglomerate Dubai Holding. “We have a vision for 2022 and beyond.”
So the World Cup is coming to Qatar, and this tiny Gulf state will be using all of its oil wealth, financial might and diplomatic clout to ensure that the tournament is a success. But it’s also about boosting its position as a global player – something that has become harder since relations with some of its neighbours soured.