A Score for the Middle East

FIFA did well in choosing Qatar for the 2022 World Cup

Last week, Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the world’s governing body of soccer, announced that the 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar. Qatar beat out the United States, Australia, Japan, and South Korea for the bid, and it will be the first time a country in the Middle East has hosted the world’s largest soccer event. We believe that FIFA made the right decision to award the World Cup to Qatar.

In a region plagued by much instability and conflict, Qatar represents a model of a thriving Middle Eastern country. The U.S. State Department calls Qatar’s recent economic growth “stunning.”  The country’s nominal GDP is estimated to grow 19 percent in 2010, and its per capita GDP, $67,000 in 2007, is expected soon to be the highest in the world. Qatar is also politically stable. The country is ruled by the Al-Thani family, who has never faced a serious external political threat; admittedly, this is largely because there is no significant opposition party. Qatar has used its economic and political strengths for the good of global sport in the past; the country cited its successful hosting of the $2.8 billion-dollar 2006 Asian Games in Doha as evidence for its track record of success in holding international sporting events in an orderly and enriching manner. Hosting the games will be a great way for Qatar to show worldwide audiences how much it has developed as a country and will generate optimism for the future of the region.

Although it is unfortunate that the United States lost the bid, we do not foresee this being much of a blow to soccer fans here. America hosted the World Cup in 1994, and in the words of FIFA itself it was “hugely successful.” The attending crowds numbered 3.6 million, which is still a record number, and in the final, Brazil won its first World Cup since 1970. In light of this history, it is encouraging to see that FIFA is interested in fostering a sense of internationalism with the Cup, by bringing the event to new places around the world. Soccer is the most global of sports. It is played with enthusiasm on every continent, and its biggest stars represent a cornucopia of nations. Thus, games like these are an excellent way for the world to come together and collectively share in competition and camaraderie. We hope that there will be no resentment on the part of the countries that lost the bid, for such an attitude would undermine the international spirit that defines the World Cup.

Qatar is currently undergoing a cultural revival of sorts: It recently built a $3 billion Museum of Islamic art, French architect Jean Nouvel is working on an annex to the National Museum of Qatar, and in 2009 The New York Times named Doha, Qatar's capital, the “cultural destination of the year.” The World Cup will give this country the opportunity to showcase the strides it has taken in recent years to highlight its rich history and legacy, and we are excited to see its culture shared with the world when the World Cup commences. Qatar will undoubtedly prove its capacity to undertake such a massive enterprise, and we eagerly await what the country has in store for the world come 2022.

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