Monday, December 6, 2010
Congratulations To Qatar
By Hussein Shabokshi
This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 5/12/2010
The announcement made from Zurich, where the official headquarters of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) is located, and which proclaimed FIFA's decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar came as a huge surprise; this was good news to some, but a shock to others. Other countries bidding to host the World Cup tournaments included superpowers that specialized in hosting some of the world's foremost international sporting events like England, the US, Austria, Japan, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal. Many of these countries, or indeed, most of them, have hosted World Cups before. This is why FIFA was so keen to allow two countries that have never hosted the World Cup tournament before to play host to this top-drawer football tournament this time around. Ever since his election as President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter has promised that countries that have never hosted the World Cup before will have the change to do so. A World Cup was held in Asia for the first time when Japan and South Korea jointly hosted the 2002 World Cup. This was followed by a European World Cup, with Germany hosting the 2006 World Cup, and of course the 2010 World Cup was successfully held earlier this year in Africa for the first time by South Africa.
Now the 2018 World Cup is set to be hosted by the revitalized, confident, and invigorated Russia, whilst the 2022 World Cup will be hosted by Qatar, and this represents one of the success stories of the Arab world. The Gulf States have utilized and increased their wealth to develop their infrastructure, services, health care programs, education systems, and investment mechanism. This has allowed Qatar to put itself on the map and succeed in clinching the top prize with regards to hosting international tournaments.
Hosting the World Cup is the most coveted award of all, and brings with it huge investment promise, and Qatar winning the bid to host the 2022 World Cup is a great achievement. After a prolonged period of dominance as the Middle East's top spot, Dubai is beginning to face fierce competition from Abu Dhabi and Qatar. Indeed Qatar has taken a huge step forward by winning the bid to host the 2022 World Cup.
Bahrain led the way [in this regard], surprising the world with the first Formula 1 Grand Prix being held in the Middle East. Several years later, Abu Dhabi also hosted a Formula 1 Grand Prix, and today both the Bahrain and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix are part of the Formula 1 season. The world's largest indoor theme park has also been established in Dubai, and that is Ferrari World, the world's first Ferrari theme park. Everybody is trying to make achievements and seek distinction in the business and sporting world, but Qatar has achieved the impossible in winning the bid to host the 2022 World Cup.
Qatar is developing and gaining momentum. This all began with the Al Jazeera satellite television channel, before a wide range of universities and educational institutes also came to the country, which was followed by the development of the countries cultural movement and Qatar building museums and holding international symposiums. Qatar was further strengthened thanks to the increasing success of the country's national airline carrier Qatar Airways, which won several international awards for excellence. This was followed by global investment in Qatar, as well as Qatar buying a large stake in Barclays bank, Sainsbury's retail store, and others. FIFA has also made impressive strides in ensuring that countries financially benefit as much as possible from hosting a World Cup tournament, as well as ensuring that these benefits are enhoyed by all regions of the world.
The Qatari bid to host the 2022 World Cup was dazzling. It also covered in detail any potential weaknesses of Qatar hosting such an international tournament, such as the hot weather and the location of the stadiums. In an unprecedented step, Qatar also offered to dismantle 80 percent of the stadium's that will be built for the tournament and donate them to third world countries.
We applaud FIFA's bold decision to award the hosting duties of the forthcoming World Cup tournaments to countries that have not hosted this tournament before, and commend FIFA for taking decisions that serve the general interest. However this is a position that has angered countries like England, the US, the Netherlands, Spain and Australia who believe that they should enjoy a special status.
Qatar's achievement can be seen as being part of the idea "do not be afraid to dream, for your dreams can come true." The entire nation of Qatar is overjoyed with the news that its bid to host the 2022 World Cup was successful. This can be summed up in a joke that was told to me by a friend, this goes "if anybody asks you where Dubai is, tell them that it is right next to Qatar!"
Let me once more say congratulation to Qatar on it's winning bid to host the World Cup!