The Gulf is also a winner in Qatar's triumph
The tension was unbearable but amid shouts of both joy and surprise, Fifa chose Qatar as the host of the 2022 World Cup yesterday evening. That Qatar now stands to host the most popular sporting event on Earth is an indication of how far that country, and indeed the entire region, has come in the past decade. Such a scenario would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
Doha showed what it was capable of in successfully hosting the Asian Games in 2006 despite a few teething problems and unseasonable rains. Fifa also had a taste of what the Gulf had to offer when the UAE hosted the 2003 World Youth Championship, a tournament that starred local hero Ismail Matar and a future World Cup winner, the Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta.
The World Cup is on another level to those events, but they did prove that in terms of organisation, Gulf nations can deliver. There are always logistical concerns to be allayed, but Qatar, like other countries in the GCC, is increasing its push to attract tourists; in the next 12 years it will ensure that the thousands of visiting fans will experience facilities and services of the highest calibre.
One aspect that is unlikely to change in the next 12 years is Qatar's stifling summer heat. The World Cup is held in June and July, a time of year in which the temperature and humidity in this part of the world reach heights that can negatively affect players' performances, and reduce the overall quality of the spectacle.
It is heartening that the heat was not used to deny Qatar its day in the sun. For a start, previous World Cup matches have been held in similarly scorching conditions. In 1994 the Irish team were visibly wilting in their World Cup match against Mexico, played in Florida's sweltering heat. But retractable-roof stadiums are becoming increasingly common and Qatar will have many of them in place by 2022.
Qatar's stunning triumph will not only raise its prestige but will also provide a boost to its economy and tourism throughout the region. It will hopefully open the door for similar events to be held elsewhere in the Gulf. But then again, there is no event quite like the World Cup.
Published: December 3, 2010 04:00 AM