Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Qatar2022: The utopia of sharing

You don't have to be a football fan to know by now that Qatar has won the right to organize the FIFA World Cup in 2022.   Just before the UEFA EURO 2012 Championship (hosted by Poland and Ukraine) Michel Platini the president of UEFA proposed that the following EURO championships should be hosted by cities across European countries as opposed to one country.   He gave as a bad  example Qatar, a country of 1.7 million set to host the FIFA World Cup, an event that needs at least 10-12 stadia with capacity of 45.000 and above each (700.000+ football stadia seets in total) and close to 60-90.000 new hotel rooms.

He claims that spreading the right of organizing across more GCC countries would have a much larger ripple effect and result in sustainable developments.

Personally I think it is a fantastic idea, which huge international and regional potential, but with a probability of being implemented close to if not spot on zero.  But if we were to be just a bit critical a huge amount of doubt arises with respect to the opportunity and legacy of a World Cup event in Qatar.

The country has 12 registered A level football clubs with an average attendance on a "Stars League" match of 4,150 spectators. Yes four thousand, one tenth of the smallest stadium to be built.  So, no matter how positive we try to be, it hardly makes any sense what the small state with unlimited resources is about to engage for: building 12 air conditioned stadiums, an additional mega airport of 24 million pax p.a. (remember population is 1.7 million), launch above 200 infrastructure projects and practically "spend" 100 billion USD to put the country to lead the world rankings of highest stadium seats per capita, per square kilometer and etc.

With the short travel distances between GCC capitals, engaging other capitals in the region seems a no-brainer. Doha + one other Qatari location could take on opening, 2 groups, quarter final, semifinals and the final, while Dubai/AD, Kuwait City, Manama, Muscat and perhaps Riyadh could take group each and some quarterfinals and one of them a semi.

This would result in a much more balanced event, culturally more interesting experience and above all totally sustainable legacy and impact for the whole region, a region where the most popular sport is by far football.

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