FIFA World Cup & benefits it reaps for Qatar
FOR the first time in history, the world has come together in Qatar, to watch the most expensive World Cup ever.
In an effort to stand out on the global stage, the gas-rich emirate has, approximately, spent up to $300bn preparing for the most prestigious event of football, the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Qatar, a nation with only a population of less than 3 million, is the first Muslim and Middle Eastern country to ever host the greatest event.
While it has organized numerous major sporting events, including the Asian Football Confederation Cup, the IAAF World Athletics Championships and the World Men’s Handball Championship, and will host the Asian Games in 2030; the FIFA World Cup is by far the high-profile and most prominent event happening now in Qatar.
The impact of this World Cup extends far beyond the sports business and Qatar seems to reap all the potential benefits that exceed the sporting industry.
For it is not simply a celebration of the skill and endeavour of athletes but a significant means of providing social, political and geopolitical influence, frequently utilized by governing authorities of Qatar, to create loyalty and legitimacy, achieve broader policy objectives and project specific messages to the outside world.
Qatar has efficiently used the hosting of the World Cup to realize the goals of “Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV 2030)”, a government ambition to convert Qatar into a global society and raise living standards.
Building new Doha districts and state-of-the-art stadiums, expanding its airports, introducing a modern metro system and preparing infrastructure to accommodate visitors, are all part of projects related to the World Cup.
These QNV 2030 projects are there to promote post-tournament sustainability as well.
Qatar has successfully utilized the opportunity to organize the FIFA World Cup as an objective to diversify the economy of the country.
Not only the infrastructure upgrades in Qatar created a lot of new jobs in key sectors like real estate, hospitality and construction, but through the tourism industry, the country could reap economic benefits of up to QAR 66bn by 2025.
With an expected 1.5 million visitors arriving for the tournament, there is an increasingly positive impact on the international profile of Qatar.
This rise in Qatar’s international profile will also result in huge foreign investment and a boost in economic growth with multinational corporations facilitating mutual growth and development.
The World Cup has also been a driving force behind innovation in Qatar. It has provided the country with an opportunity for modernization and technological development.
By providing a substantial impetus for innovation it has been possible for Qatar to deliver the most connected and environment-friendly version of the world’s premier sporting event.
This not only makes the tournament a better experience for fans and has a lower impact on the environment, but it will also benefit people in Qatar and beyond for many years to come.
The World Cup provided Qatar with an opportunity to innovate and the country seized the chance to do so.
Long after the last spectator will leave the final game in Lusail Stadium, the legacy of this culture of invention will live on.
Qatar is also promoting itself internationally as a producer of knowledge and science. Located in one of the World Cup stadiums, the education city is a state-led non-profit organization for education, science and community development.
In this manner, not only is there an influx of football enthusiasts in the country, but also increased awareness of its burgeoning science program.
In Qatar, the World Cup has also served as a motivator for gender equality. Although, it is not the only Arab nation to establish a national team of women, what distinguishes the emirate is the royal family’s and media’s support for the athletes involved.
Before the announcement of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, women’s sports were more of an aspiration than a regular occurrence.
However, a fundamental shift has begun. In Qatar, being female and an athlete is no more a cultural taboo as it was in other Arab countries.
Through the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar is on its path to boosting its reputation as a progressive Arab and Islamic State and increasing its geopolitical clout.
The World Cup, however, also has direct positive effects on the general prestige of all Gulf countries, in terms of investment, tourism and economic opportunities, among others.
For Saudi Arabia, the number of pilgrims is expected to increase potentially, with Makkah predicted to have a 106% rise in occupancy compared to 2021.
Iran has negotiated deals with Qatar and is housing football fans in anticipation of a tourism boom.
The hotel occupancy rate in Bahrain, Kuwait and Jordan has increased. Pakistan is also providing security for the event from South Asia, in an agreement between Qatar and the Pak Army in response to Doha’s request for assistance.
The landmark event of the World Cup has the potential for short as well as long-term economic advantages and soft-power gains for Qatar.
The nation, with a complex web of friendships, has not been only the greatest strategic ally but also a go-to-mediator in global diplomacy.
It has built ties with Iran and welcomed Islamists while also housing the largest US airbase in the Middle East.
The hosting of the tournament is playing a further pivotal role in portraying Qatar as a distinguished and respectable actor in the global arena, whose influence as a diplomatic power broker is again under the spotlight.
Through the World Cup, Qatar is also fulfilling its stated objectives of promoting intercultural understanding and celebrating global community, inclusivity and sustainability in the Middle East, Asia and the world at large.
The State is also expected to continue hosting athletic events, positioning itself to leave a lasting legacy as the Middle East’s sports and political-economic epicentre.
Officials are currently engaged in early talks for a bid for another crown jewel event, which is the Summer Olympics of 2036.
By inviting individuals from all over the world to participate in the festivities, this World Cup has the potential to strengthen ties between the Arab and Western worlds and promote international goodwill, stability and prosperity.
—The writer is a Pakistani Climate Youth Leader, UN SDGs Advocate and an expert on Youth Development in the Global South.