Thursday, December 2, 2010

World Cup: Russia, Qatar Win Big

Kudos to FIFA for some bold choices this morning on the sites of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which in case you missed it, will go to Russia and Qatar respectively. Though the picks are being roundly criticized in some circles – notably the UK, and to a lesser degree the US, media since each country lost out on their bids to host the Cup - it was nice to see the trend of big, international tournaments going to new parts of the world continue.

I thought that the Russian bid was heading for defeat when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that he would not be traveling to Zurich to make a final, personal appeal to the FIFA committee, but perhaps Putin was just playing coy, acting like he really didn't care if Russia got the cup or not... For Russia the 2018 World Cup will follow on the heels of the 2014 Winter Olympics which will be held in Sochi. Both Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev are talking about how the World Cup shows that Russia has arrived (or perhaps returned) to the level of a “First Nation” country; terms that had previously been used when Russia was awarded the Sochi Games. Even more intriguing is the award of the 2022 Cup to Qatar, which by any measure is a decidedly puny nation – coming in at 164th in the ranking of nations of the world by size and with a total population of just 1.6 million. Of course Qatar is one of the richest (in terms of per capita wealth) nations in the world thanks to huge supplies of oil and natural gas (Qatar has the world's third-largest reserves of the latter). And the Qataris are promising to spend ample amounts of that resource wealth in creating a slate of ridiculously sci-fi looking stadia that they claim will also be “carbon-neutral” for this green 21st century. One interesting aspect of the Qatar bid was their approach to recycling: some stadiums will be dismantled after the Cup and shipped to nations around the world that cannot afford to build such complexes. And while Qatar itself is small, backers of their bid say that the symbolism is huge since this is the first sporting event of global scale to be held in the Islamic world.

Critics are slamming FIFA for the awards though, stating that both countries have lousy human rights records, a factor they say FIFA should have considered in their decision. Some comments on the 2018 Cup questioned how people would get between venues since Russia is such a huge country (covering 11 time zones and 1/6 the world's surface). Russian organizers seem to plan to counter this by staging all of the WC games in cities located in the European third of the nation. Comments on message boards again slammed the Qataris for their approach to human rights, particularly the fact that homosexuality is officially a crime in Qatar; though many of the comments on British sites were complaining that alcohol sales are banned in Islamic Qatar (Qatari officials have pledged to set up special “alcohol zones” for tourists during the games, which should help to satisfy the British drunkards).

And the world now has 11 years to figure out the correct way to pronounce “Qatar”.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And I know exactly WHY Russia and Qatar won: