Saturday, December 04, 2010

Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup!

Qatar has won the 2022 World Cup!!

Unbelievable achievement, congratulations Qatar!

Now before I continue describing the mayhem of happiness and joy that erupted throughout the country in the wake of the announcement I would just like to come clean and say for the record: when Qatar first announced its intention to bid for the 2022 World Cup a couple of years ago I said “not a chance”. You need at least nine stadiums that hold 40,000+ people, it has never been held in such a small country before, there aren't enough hotel rooms or infrastructure for 400,000 fans, and the tournament has to be held in June and July in open air stadiums (that's a FIFA requirement). In June it's already hitting 40° with humidity and if the stadiums are open air than how could you cool them? With all that in mind I thought this bid was a no-go right from the beginning.

I changed my mind after seeing the initial bid that they made, which dealt with all of the above issues in detail. Looks like everyone else changed their mind too. They even built a smaller version of a stadium (500-seater) with a revolutionary air-conditioning system to demonstrate how they could keep it cool (apparently the pitch was 27° while outside it was 44°).

I just wanted to get that out of the way -- I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon and pretend that I was a staunch supporter right from day one.

Now when the announcement was made I was in Arabic class and left shortly thereafter to pick up a friend and his colleague who were in Qatar for just one evening on business to take them to the souq. I then realized that since Qatar won the bid the streets near the Corniche would be absolute chaos with celebrations and it would probably take us forever to get to the souq. Our friend wondered if that meant we should have dinner at the hotel and I said “Are you kidding? Now we definitely have to go! This will be the biggest celebration since the country gained independence!”

Sure enough the streets were a madhouse of cars, almost all of them with Qatari flags, and horns honking. Qatari men in dishdasha were everywhere, in the streets, waving from car windows, on top of vehicles, yelling, waving flags and jumping up and down. But it wasn't just Qataris, Arabs of all nationalities were out in the streets as well. Lebanese, Egyptians, Moroccan, Omanis, all were absolutely jubilant. Traffic was going almost nowhere but no one cared because they weren’t down there to go anywhere -- just to move around slowly, honk their horns and celebrate. I even saw some policeman in their car waving flags. Some people had painted “2022”and similar slogans on their vehicles. I even received a celebratory text from my Qatari friend who got married the night before!

The world needs to understand that Qataris took this bid seriously and were truly hoping they would get it. There is no chance that celebrations in the USA would've been like this. The two Americans I was with didn't even know that the USA was bidding for it.

After about an hour we got to the souq and had dinner, wandered around a while, then took an hour to get as even at 1130 the traffic and celebrations were as big as when we first left. I eventually got home around 1am, and in the main road in front of my apartment building traffic was still clogged in both directions with celebrating Qataris and other Arabs. So I stood on the sidewalk in front my apartment building and watched it all go by. The party went on into the wee hours.

The next night there was a parade starting from the Corniche and going to Khalifa Stadium. I missed the parade because I was at a friends place but sure enough that evening the streets were again packed with cars full of jubilant Arabs.

Even now I still can't quite come to terms with what has happened. Qatar, which 15 years ago was a country of maybe 200,000 people and didn't even have a mall, had accomplished so much in so little time that they won the right to hold the biggest tournament in the world.

The impact this will have on the nation will be unreal. Prior to this the construction was for various purposes: developing infrastructure, try to diversify the economy, develop ways to invest its oil wealth, but there was no real end point or overarching rationale that put all the various projects together. For the next 12 years the country will have a real sense of purpose, a goal for which all of the construction and changes will be geared to. The World Cup will now be foremost on the minds of Qataris and much of the country’s development will be in support of that goal.

It will be an exciting time, a wild time, and the country will change faster than the momentous amount of change that had gone before. Hopefully it citizens will be able to cope with that change as the tiny country of Qatar becomes the focus of the world.

But they have a while to sort all that out, for now there is celebration, I expect the jubilant mood to continue for at least the next two weeks. Qatar's National Day is December 18 and I expect it will be quite the party.

Congratulations Qatar!

1 comment:

MadeInCanarias said...


Congratulations to Qatar for winning! :) Just yesterday i saw a really great TV program about life in Qatar and this country sounds really interesting.
I also wanted to ask, if you could send me a postcard from Qatar.
if you can help me, please contact me on madeincanarias at yahoo dot es