01 February, 2011

Air-conditioned World Cup stadia? In the desert? It’s madness

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Sport's Finest Prize: The World Cup Trophy
Anyone asking sceptical questions about the Qatar 2022 World Cup is dismissed as a scaremonger and reminded that there are 11 years until kick-off. But FIFA’s decision to award the event to a tiny emirate has thrown up enough controversies and logistical challenges to last the decade. “Vote now, worry about the detail afterwards”, appears to have been the rationale of the FIFA members who ignored the inspectors’ “high-risk” warning about Qatar’s bid.
The spiralling cost may be the least of those concerns: US$50 billion? US$100 billion? US$200 billion?
The emirate will not be found wanting for funds, given its vast resources of natural gas. Qatar can well afford to dwarf the estimated $40 billion spent by China for the 2008 Olympic Games, which paid for, among other things, a new airport terminal and subway lines as well as the sports venues.
The lasting issues are not about money, but common sense and logistics.
Why would anyone want to take football to a desert in the height of summer, prompting concerns that the tournament may have to be moved to December?
Qatar 2022: 'For the Good of the Game'? Or 'For the Good of Bank Accounts'?
Does it make sense to spend billions of dollars building nine stadiums, only to dismantle most of them straight after the event for export?
And can Qatar possibly hope to build sustainable business and tourism on the back of a World Cup, particularly given the downturn in neighbouring Dubai?
To add to those worries now is the fear that Qatar may have bitten off more than it can chew in terms of the scale of construction.
FIFA’s members were warned — but, for reasons still to be established, went ahead with it anyway.

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