Thursday, 8 June 2017

Even more problems for the Qatar World Cup

It’s been far from plain-sailing for the organisers of the Qatar World Cup since it was announced as the 2022 host country in 2010. Since then it has faced allegations of corruption in its World Cup bid, accusations of terrible treatment of migrant workers brought in to build the event infrastructure, criticism that its human rights record makes it unfit to host such a high profile event and problems with the staging date for the tournament (what with deserts being quite hot in the summertime) that have necessitated a move from summer to winter.

However, a political development has now threatened the organisation of the event further. This week seven middle eastern countries withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar and three, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have told Qatari nationals to leave their countries and banned travel to Qatar. The moves are a response to allegations that Qatar has been supporting Islamist terrorism, although the Qatari government has strenuously denied this. The knock-on effect for the World Cup is the possibility that raw materials used in their massive construction project could be in short supply, as much of it reaches the country via Saudi Arabia.

With a blockade effectively in place this causes a serious logistical problem for Qatar, but it also adds weight to the argument that they really shouldn’t have been awarded the World Cup in the first place.

Doubts about whether the stadia for major sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympics are almost a tradition, but none have been bolstered by a blockade before. They still have five years to go, plus a few extra months now that the event has been pushed back from the summer to the winter, but the scale of the project is unprecedented, with even the city that will house the World Cup final stadium, Lusail, still to be built.

FIFA, who happen to be sponsored by Qatar Airways, have so far declined to comment on the situation, and have shown no signs since announcing Qatar as hosts of reconsidering its decision, despite the numerous problems. The 2022 World Cup still therefore seems certain to go ahead in Qatar, but one thing is for certain: it will be a World Cup like no other we have seen before.