So England won’t be hosting the 2018 World Cup. I can’t say that I am surprised given all of the negative publicity the British press have generated around the bid-process in recent weeks. There were simply too many noses out of joint amongst the election committee, if you ask me. And I can also imagine that not having to put up with the British press for the next 7 and-a-half years is an added boon for FIFA.
In fact, I was reading an article earlier today that pointed out that of all the countries bidding for both the 2018 and 2022 competitions, the two with the least free press were the winners. Can you imagine The Kremlin allowing a Panorama-like programme to besmirch the good name of FIFA a couple of days before the end of the bid process? Me neither.
The real surprise for me was that Qatar were chosen to host the 2022 event. This is a tiny country, with a population of only 1.6 million. It has almost no history of being a football nation of any note and its team has never come close to qualifying for a World Cup in the past. But, having recently worked on a press campaign for a major international business school that is launching in Qatar this year, what has become clear to me is the scope of ambition in the country.
Having spoken to many Qataris over the last few weeks it has become apparent that their nation will be a force to be reckoned with in the future. Not only do they sit on the largest natural gas reserves of any country in the world, and a considerable amount of oil to boot, but they are working towards the ‘Qatar 2030 vision’. This is a set of objectives that the government have set themselves in order to turn Qatar into a major world power over the next twenty years. It calls for incredible levels of development in education, social issues and business.
This dream is going to cost a lot of money but, as we’ve seen with their World Cup bid, and their plans to build a raft of brand new, refrigerated stadiums, that is not something Qatar is short of.