5 12 2010

Having already looked at the reaction in England to losing the 2018 World Cup finals to Russia, I would like to turn my attention to the uninformed, largely bigoted vitriol being aimed at Qatar for, it would appear, no other reason than they had a successful bid.

I should declare in advance that I am a ‘fan’ of many of the Gulf nations having worked in and visited a number of them, including Qatar.

In my last blog I pointed out the importance of legacy to FIFA, something we have largely ignored in England when reacting to the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Qatar understands legacy. To my knowledge it is the only nation on the planet where every single school child has the opportunity to be Talent ID’d. And not just once but twice; the first time at nine years of age and then again at 13/14. That is Talent ID for a range of sports not just football.

Qatar has also invested heavily in building a sporting infrastructure. The 2006 Doha Asian Games were a huge success

Serena Williams winning in Doha

as were the 2010 IAAF Indoor World Athletics Championships both taking place in world-class facilities. Top flight golf, sailing, tennis, gymnastics and more all visit Qatar on a regular basis.

Below the top-level, Doha boasts the Aspire Academy where children gain a top-level education alongside instruction and coaching in a range of sports from leading coaches. Aspire boasts amazing facilities including a full size, temperature controlled, indoor football pitch in a vast sports complex which has to be seen to be believed. The Academy also works with the broader community in developing sport in Qatar including running after school centres where primary school aged children learn physical literacy, something, as I recently blogged, our own education system still does not offer.

One of the fingers pointed at Qatar’s winning bid for 2022 has been that the summer temperatures will be too high to play football. Certainly 40-50 degrees is normal but there is already talk of the new stadia being ‘air conditioned’ to control temperatures for players.

From the Qatari bid document: “Each of the five stadiums will harness the power of the suns rays to provide a cool environment for players and fans by converting solar energy into electricity that will then be used to cool both fans and players at the stadiums. When games are not taking place, the solar installations at the stadia will export energy onto the power grid. During matches, the stadia will draw energy from the grid. This is the basis for the stadiums’ carbon-neutrality. Along with the stadiums, we plan to make the cooling technologies we’ve developed available to other countries in hot climates, so that they too can host major sporting events.”

Now that is legacy! And don’t bet against it happening, Qatar along with other Gulf states has a ‘can do’ attitude when it comes to solving problems, one has only to look at amazing engineering feats such as the Palm and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai

Female athletes in Doha 2010 – not exactly covered up!

Another one of the uninformed accusations aimed at Qatar has been that women fans from around the world will have to ‘cover up’. The IAAF faced this question when first taking Grand Prix athletics (now the Diamond League) to Doha in 1997. Sensible discussion led to women being permitted to compete initially with arms and legs covered but in recent years in ‘normal’ kit. Women play an important part in Qatari life managing banks, working as doctors, teaching children and more. That said, Qatar is, despite its wealth, a relatively emerging nation and equality still has some way to go but it is nowhere near as bad as is being portrayed.

Another favourite of the bigots is the now rather tedious fear of all that is Islam. At its heart Islam is a religion of peace which has had its teachings abused and mistaught in some parts of the world, much as Christianity has too! Visitors to Qatar can go about their day-to-day lives without fear of abduction or bombing or shooting, Doha is not Kabul in fact it was the sight of the main allied HQ during the Iraq war!

Under the teachings of Islam use of alcohol is frowned upon and another of the crass statements I have heard is that fans won’t be able to get a beer. Well, I had no problem getting an alcoholic drink while I was there for while it is true there are no pubs all of the western hotels have at least one bar open to the general public. Furthermore the Qatar bid document stated that fan-zones serving alcohol will be set up for the tournament. The Qataris won’t however tolerate drunkenness in the streets or drunk and disorderly behaviour, why should they? Should hosting the World Cup finals mean the host has to accept the sort of idiocy all too frequently seen in English towns and cities every Saturday night?

Finally, and laughably, one pundit even questioned how such a small country should be allowed to host the World Cup! Why not? If only from a fans perspective this will surely make getting between games/venues far easier as oppose to (e.g.) the US who have led much of the finger-pointing outside England.

My own experience of working in, living in and of visiting the Gulf has me looking forward to 2022 with great anticipation. As the Qatari bid’s Strapline said; ‘Expect amazing!’

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, 2010

Twitter @cowanglobal



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