Posted by: mdegeorge | December 2, 2010

Starting XI Points: World Cup 2022 Bids

It’s taken most of the day to formulate just why, but the more and more I ruminate on the decisions to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively today, the less and less sense I find.

We’ll put 2018 to the side for now; it’s pretty easy to see how the world would want to keep the Brits as far away from the position of prominence in the soccer scene they think they already occupy.

Let’s just focus on the Qatar-USA debate, since it’s the forum for FIFA’s most egregious error. That’s because soccer’s governing body opted for the chic (no pun intended) pick instead of the sensible one. And it’s one for which they will pay.

– It’s true, the Qatar bid had a “wow” factor (even if they lack the spelling factor; #Quatar and #Katar were both trending worldwide on Twitter this morning, while the proper spelling was conspicuously absent). It’s one of the most rapidly expanding cultures in the world—its population has increased 16 percent per year from 2005 to 2008, an utterly astronomical figure—drawing upon its immense oil wealth to bankroll decadence the likes of which the world has rarely seen. Estimates place it as either the first or second largest per capita income in the world (tiny Liechtenstein is also in the conversation). Its efforts at modernization have been revolutionary compared to some of its conservative and theocratic neighbors. The appeal of 12 brand new stadia, all with air conditioning and state-of-the-art amenities, would provide a tremendous showcase for the world’s game.

Dec. 1, 2010 - Zurich, California, Switzerland - Former US president Bill Clinton arrives with the US delegation at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, on december 1st, 2010. . 2010.K66334AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

– But, as Edmund Burke would interject if he could (this is as big of a say as the British get in this debate), the history of the nation is important. It’s not irrelevant that four decades ago, this area of land was a territory of one of the other bidding nations, Great Britain. In this bid, we’re forecasting a dozen years ahead for a nation that’s sovereignty is less than a half-century old and that’s immense wealth is even more new-found. This 12-year plan constitutes almost 30 percent of the nation’s existence to date. How can their not be concerns extrapolating this far ahead for a nation that five decades ago looked more likely to become one of eight Emirates in the UAE?

– We’ve seen the ripple effects of debt and overspending in that region with the Dubai concerns of earlier this year; there are plenty of opportunities for such doubt to target the arrivistes of Qatar now that the magnification of the region has been intensified. The economy is still, by most estimates, over 50 percent comprised of proceeds from the sizable oil and natural gas reserves. Whether or not this is a sustainable model for growth into the next decade as the world reassess (in theory, at least) its energy demands remains to be seen.

The economic reasons can probably be papered over, if they arise, for the next decade…and probably in the most ornate and expensive paper you’ve ever seen. But logistically, I’m nowhere near as satisfied as FIFA as to the feasibility of the Qatar bid.

– We’re talking about jamming millions of people into a piece of land the size of Connecticut, most of which is desert or desert-like which receives negligible amounts of rain yearly. Traffic in cities like Doha, which is slated to have six—SIX!!!—venues can, in no way, not be a nightmare simply by the laws of physics that dictate that two cars can’t occupy the same space in time. If I lived in Doha, I’d by a bike.

– While we’re on the subject of venues, Qatar does boast an advantage by having 12 stadia in close proximity as opposed to 18 American arenas spread across the spacious lower 48. But of the 12 Qatari stadia, only five are completed—though still requiring sweeping changes that include basically doubling the capacity of each—while the other seven are empty lots.

– Security is always an issue; putting the ostensible targets (Western powers like the U.S.) in such close proximity to the hotbed of terrorism and Islamic extremism is like having Yankee Stadium host a Red Sox-Mets game and not expecting their to be brawls in the parking lot involving Yankees fans. Qatar has an impeccable record of remaining unscathed from terrorist attacks despite being a short camel caravan ride away from numerous terrorist cells/training camps on the Arabian Peninsula, but that immunity has come courtesy of some shady dealings. The nation has always been supportive of U.S. intervention in the area, serving as a staging area for both Gulf Wars. But security by knuckling under to extortion doesn’t make me sleep easy at night.

– Let’s talk climate. According to the Weather Channel, the average temperature for in Doha in June and July when the tournament will take place is 106. That’s the average. That means every single day, it will more or less by 106 degrees during the tournament. That is an incalculable and borderline ridiculous metric. For a little context, the hottest day in the history of recorded temperatures in Philadelphia was 106, and it took a sweltering August day in 1918 to reach that benchmark. With another 12 years of global warming—ironically stemming primarily from the fossil fuels upon which Qatar’s billions are built—that figure could be closer to 110. Air condition all you want, that’s too darn hot.

– While we’re on the subject of global warming, it’s noteworthy that the Qatar outcropping of the peninsula is among the most vulnerable to rising sea levels in the world. An increase in global sea level could drastically alter the topography of the nation that’s highest point is just 330 feet and numbers coastal metropolises like Doha among its power centers.

– There’s also a question of attendance figures. Of the 12 host venues, only two will open the tournament with seating capacities exceeding 70,000 spectators. The rest hover around the 45,000 seat range. The 18 U.S. stadia don’t include one with a capacity of less that 65,000. The U.S. showed in 1994 that it could fill gargantuan stadiums like the Meadowlands with legions of rabid soccer fans, even in a more indifferent fan atmosphere than today; the updated versions of those venues, not slouches themselves in the amenity department, would obliterate attendance records.

– Culturally, there’s one factor which the Qatari’s miss out on completely: the “I just want to be there” factor, for those not attending games, but merely being a part of the hysteria, socially and economically. The United States boasts amazing diversity of cultural minorities, in addition to intrigued neutrals, to pack into matches. That doesn’t happen in a nation that’s 86 percent comprised of Arabs, Pakistanis, Iranians, and Indians. How many Ecuadorians do you think there are in Doha right now? When Honduras doesn’t travel well to the tournament, who’s going to buy those tickets if the locals aren’t interested? And how many Ghanaians call Al Rayyan home right now?

– The subtext to this decision is quite clear. FIFA had a choice to make in the 2022 bid: appeal to American consumerism dollars or Middle Eastern elite for massive investment into clubs. We’ve seen what that infusion of wealth has done for teams like Manchester City, and I believe the powers that be at FIFA preferred making progress in the Middle Eastern markets, one that lacks the dominant sporting preferences and parochialism of the U.S. and features a multitude of rich men with money to burn, over the already expanding market in the U.S. Time will tell if that is a financially advantageous decision.

The 12 Point- The ultimate question in my mind is this: who knows what the world will look like in 12 years. September 11 was a world-changer that came largely out of the blue. Worldwide tensions make any accurate forecast this many years into the future somewhat foolhardy. Perhaps Qatar’s economic boon will continue to flourish. Perhaps it won’t. It’s entirely possible that the Middle Eastern nation will put on a show like the world has never seen.

Currently, all we know is that FIFA has navigated away from the safe option.

<div style=”text-align:center;”><a href=”; target=”_blank”><img src=”; border=”0″ width=”500″ title=”US delegation arrives at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland” height=”333″ oncontextmenu=”return false;” ondrag=”return false;” onmousedown=”return false;” alt=”Dec. 1, 2010 – Zurich, California, Switzerland – Former US president Bill Clinton arrives with the US delegation at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, on december 1st, 2010. . 2010.K66334AM. &amp;copy; Red Carpet Pictures” /></a></div><script type=”text/javascript” src=””></script&gt;


  1. Woo hoo! 222 in the Muslim Q! Poor Americans, sad, shame. Go debate rainbows and douche kits in the military.

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