Qatar World Cup 2022: How the situation went from bad to terrible – iNews

“Look at the picture… I haven’t had a very smiling face.” So Sepp Blatter recounted the day, seven years ago, when he pulled out an envelope, opened it, and unveiled Qatar as the hosts of the 2022 World Cup.
He was right not to be overly cheery. Before the decision, Fifa’s inspection team had ranked Qatar as the only “high risk” option, yet it got enough votes from the Executive Committee to win the right to host the tournament ahead of Australia, Japan, South Korea and the USA.
Qatar bid on the basis that they could hold the tournament in its traditional slot in the western summer months, in defiance of its 50-degree heat; the claim was soon exposed as hogwash, and the tournament moved to November and December instead.
Sepp Blatter holds up the name of Qatar during the official announcement of the 2022 World Cup host country on 2 December, 2010 (AFP/Getty Images)
All the while, migrant workers have suffered horrendous treatment in constructing stadiums for the World Cup; contractors confiscating passports or subjecting workers to forced labour remains widespread, with worker welfare standards worth about as much as a Conservative Party manifesto pledge. The stink over Qatar being awarded the World Cup has never gone away.
As far back as 2013, Blatter, then still enthroned as Fifa president, admitted “It may well be that we made a mistake.”
Now, this World Cup has yet another setback to confront: the boycott of Qatar by a series of Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, accusing Qatar of harbouring terrorists.
Embarrassing
This is not just embarrassing for Qatar; it could imperil the country’s ability to construct the eight new stadiums it needs to host the World Cup. In the region of half the materials for the stadiums, and the wider infrastructure the country needs to host the tournament, comes by road. All of this comes through Saudi Arabia, the only country Qatar borders.
In the short term, construction work is proceeding unabated, as Qatar had already imported the steel and concrete it needs for the next couple of months. But if the blockade continues it will “probably be a big problem,” says David Roberts, the author of Qatar: Securing the Global Ambitions of a City State.
“It’s a mathematical question: how can you replace those imports with the Doha ports?” None of Qatar’s ports are among the top 100 in the world for imports; they are not built to service the amount of material Qatar needs to complete construction work on time.
Behind the pace
Even before the blockade, the country was slightly behind the pace: it has completed under half the construction work for the World Cup, in well over half the time between its successful bid and hosting the tournament.
Nor are there any indications the blockade will end soon. “We do not want to escalate, we want to isolate,” the UAE’s state minister for foreign affairs said this week. Roberts fears that the blockade could last several years, such is the lack of inclination for compromise on either side.
The Gulf states have made clear that their boycott extends to sport: they will neither play Qatar nor travel there for competitions. This month, Fifa removed a Qatari referee from a 2018 World Cup qualifier after a request from the UAE. The Athletics World Championships in 2019 already faces being sullied.
And what of the World Cup? The tournament is more than five years away, so it would be premature to declare Qatar’s ability to host it imperilled just yet. But Qatar’s original pitch, that the event would be a “tournament for the region”, is now rendered absurd.
Blockade
Should the blockade persist, it will make travelling to Qatar even more costly, and likely to undermine the number of fans who make it to the country, believes Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sports Enterprise at the University of Salford.
For Qatar, sport has always been used as a vehicle for its self-promotion – in hosting events and in sponsoring iconic teams such as Barcelona. Botching the World Cup would be a deep humiliation. Chadwick believes that Saudi Arabia “is seeking to diminish its smaller neighbour and realises how important staging the World Cup actually is to Qatar.”
Increasingly, the debacle of Qatar hosting the tournament is affecting Fifa in the language it understands best: cold hard cash. Fifa has secured only 12 of the 34 sponsorship slots available for next summer’s World Cup in Russia, far fewer than in previous years. Fifa’s brand has plummeted such depths that brands are wary of being associated with them.
And so, even now, it is possible to glimpse the legacy of Qatar 2022. It is shaping up to be a tournament so mired in stench, it not only exacerbates the great distrust of Fifa, but undermines its bottom line. At least there lies a sliver of hope that out of crude financial necessity, if nothing else, Fifa will recognise the urgency of reform.

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