Thursday, December 2, 2010

Initial thoughts on Qatar’s World Cup from a repatriated expatriate

 First, I’d like to extend congratulations to Qatar for being awarded the honour of hosting the World Cup.
The bid team ran a well-executed and organized campaign. It was clear from day one that unlike Qatar’s usual impotency at executing anything, the World Cup bid was different.

Today people actually care about the desert country that came seemingly out of nowhere to win.

Qatar won the World Cup. The tiny country with a population of just over 1 million people, a shameful FIFA ranking, and owners of the largest supply of liquefied natural gas in the world, won the freaking FIFA World Cup. 

Qatar has been flying under the international radar for years, despite the fact that they have the richest economy in the world. Personally, I’m not shocked, but the result is shocking. They have a TON of money; of course they’re going to win. What will be most interesting is watching how Qatar reacts to international scrutiny.  Qatar wanted the spotlight thrust and them and here it is. I hope they’re prepared to deal with the attention. 

Right now, there is no way Qatar could host the World Cup. The infrastructure simply isn’t there. For starters, their public transportation is a joke. You think the TTC is bad? (It is terrible.) Doha has a small fleet of buses that run on seemingly random schedules. That is all. 

Luckily for FIFA, Doha is developing at an alarming rate, thanks to the thousands and thousands of Sri Lankans and Nepalese who are building the country from the ground up. 

Let’s talk about the laboring class for a minute. 

These fellers are drawn to Qatar by promises of better wages and the opportunity to support their families from abroad. In many cases, once they arrive their passports are taken away. They find out they might be making more than they were back home, but it’s nowhere near enough to ever pay for the cost of living AND buy a return ticket home.

Once they've worked all day in the oppressive desert sun, they crowd on buses to drive to sleep in tiny living spaces with 25 other men who also might never again see their families. 

And it’s not like these poor little dudes can take comfort in each other. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. It’s an offense punishable by 90 lashes. 

I can’t help but wonder where they’ll hide these modern slaves when the international press rolls into town.
And how about the culture of sport? I gained like ten pounds living there. It’s the least pedestrian-friendly city I’ve ever seen; if you’re lucky enough to find a sidewalk, don’t stay long. It will probably turn into a road in a few meters and leave you stranded in the middle of a roundabout. In Qatar, everyone drives everywhere. There’s no choice.  

The number of Qataris with diabetes is staggering and sadly, the means to make a lifestyle switch towards healthy eating and exercise doesn’t yet exist. Here, let the NY Times fill you in.

Qatar committed over $4 billion towards new stadiums and promised that once the WC is over, they’ll dismantle two of them and donate the buildings to poorer countries. I guess that’s noble. Admittedly, the designs are stunning: 

Now, we come to the biggest and most obvious issue with having the World Cup in the desert. – Weather. The summer is hot. Intolerably hot. The dusty summer wind rushes in your face and stings your eyes. It feels like one thousand blow dryers aimed right at your face. I spent two summers there and barely went outside. All you want to do is get from one air conditioned space to another, as fast as possible. 

It’s just too damn hot. 

To remedy this, the bid team plans to air condition the stadiums to accommodate players and fans. FIFA raised concerns last week, saying that while Qatar can air condition a stadium, they can’t air condition an entire country.  

I wouldn’t put it past the Qataris to air condition an entire country. It’s 2022! No one will care about the environment in the future! What carbon footprint? 

At least hot and sweaty football fans will be able to hydrate in the beer tents. Qatar’s World Cup will definitely have beer tents! The country’s royal family has proven they’ll shirk their value system to accommodate the Westerners.  Anything for FIFA.
The next eleven years are going to be insane.  

How the hell did this happen?