FThe head of FIFA has promised the World Cup will be like “Disneyland” while rights groups say workers have been through hell, but one thing is certain – there will be no other World Cup like Qatar 2022.
Few countries could afford the more than $200 billion bill that the small but ultra-wealthy emirate has paid for its stunning transformation over the past 12 years.
The World Cup has become such an expensive and contentious behemoth that FIFA – still reeling from votes for Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 – may struggle to find a single nation willing to take on the task of hosting.
The tournament expands to 48 teams when the circus moves to the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026.
Qatar has been feeling the heat since the day its former sports-crazed emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, celebrated securing the championship in a December 2010 vote.
FIFA’s investigation into the vote-buying allegations concluded that there was no strong evidence for action. But most of the 22-member committee that backed Qatar have been replaced or investigated for corruption.
The tournament had to be moved from its traditional summer venue to the northern hemisphere winter due to the extreme heat in Qatar.
But the first World Cup in an Arab country has come under fire for Qatar’s rights record – from deaths and wages of migrant workers to women’s rights and LGBT rights.
From the outset, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) demanded that FIFA and Qatar sign up for a $440m workers’ compensation fund.
“The legacy of the 2022 World Cup depends on whether Qatar comes to terms with the deaths of the migrant workers who built the tournament, implements recent labor reforms, and protects the human rights of everyone in Qatar — not just visiting fans and footballers,” Rothna Begum of Human Rights Watch told Reuters. AFP.
Michael Payne, the former head of marketing at the International Olympic Committee, suggested that Qatar would not be in the spotlight so much if it were not the host country.
“If Qatar is not hosting the World Cup, will there be media coverage of human rights issues?” Asked.
Qatari officials say their country has been the target of “racism” and “double standards”. They point to reforms to working conditions and safety that were hailed as pioneering in the Gulf region and now speak of “legal” measures.
The current emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, said there was an “unprecedented campaign” against his country that had built exceptional stadiums, new roads, hotels and museums for the event.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has announced that Qatar will stage the “best ever” World Cup on and off the field.
For 1 million foreign visitors, it will be “like a child going to Disneyland for the first time and seeing the attractions and games,” he said at a press conference earlier this year.
Now football fans are flocking to test those promises.
Police from Turkey, Pakistan and Morocco monitor them, French gendarmes provide advice and the RAF helps patrol the skies.
But all the venues are within 70 kilometers (43 miles) of each other, a host of rap stars have lined up, and public transport and emergency healthcare are free.
By comparison, the 2026 World Cup will be spread over several thousand kilometers in North America. It is almost certain that the 2030 tournament will be held in at least two countries.
“The future is likely to attract more and more co-hosts,” said Colin Smith, FIFA Tournament Director.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker, who has played a key role in the preparations, highlighted the unique challenge of staging the World Cup in such a small country.
“This is the first and only time in history that something like this has happened, because there will never again be an opportunity for FIFA to host this size of a tournament with the commitment that the State of Qatar and its owners had to have this tournament here and it was successfully delivered.”