Qatar’s pride, others’ prejudice
As critics line up to question the decision to hand the World Cup to Qatar, Iman Kurdi of Arab News says their bitterness ignores the good the tournament can do.
December 5, 2010 2:25 by Ben Flanagan
Within seconds of the results being announced, the word “corrupt” became the No. 1 trending topic on that great thermometer of public sentiment: Twitter. Be it Russia or Qatar, commentators were quick to claim that bribery had played a part. It is one thing to believe that FIFA is a corrupt organization and that its votes can be bought, but it is another to automatically assume that a country like Qatar could only win the bid by bribery, which is more or less what commentators in the British and American press have said, some more directly than others. It is a form of prejudice toward the Gulf state and one which brings out all the usual suspects of prejudice toward the Arab and Muslim world.
And so we are told that Qatar is a bad choice because drinking alcohol in public is not allowed, because homosexual behavior is against the law, because there is a lack of press freedom and because women are discriminated against. And, of course, the T word is not left out, holding the tournament in Qatar lays it open to the danger of terrorism, we are confidently told. Or to sum it up in the words of one commentator expressing some sour grapes over how Qatar could beat the US in the bid: “Islamic monarchy beat Western-style democracy”. But why is political governance relevant to the ability to host a football tournament?
The technical arguments against are far more convincing. Building 12 stadiums and welcoming 400,000 visitors in a country of only 11,500 kms and a population of only 1.7 million is a rather severe challenge. Playing football in the glaring heat of summer also poses a genuine health risk. Building nine of the stadiums from scratch, as well as building an entirely new public transport infrastructure to connect the stadiums and the hotel and hospitality facilities needed to host the games is also an incredible logistical challenge, but not an impossible one.
Moreover the way the Qataris have dealt with these issues verges on the “we will do anything to get what we want”. And so the stadiums will be air-conditioned using solar-powered technology. Several of the stadiums will be built like Lego enabling them to be dismantled and reconstructed in poorer countries, and a massive budget is being thrown at the project in order to build it all in time.
Is a football tournament worth all that? My first instinct is a definite no. But then I remember my feelings as I watched the ceremony and I wonder, could bringing the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time challenge common perceptions about the Arab world? Could Sheikh Mohammad bin Hamad Al-Thani be right, could it be they will make the world proud of the Middle East?
- Arab News
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