The Road to 2022

Massive international criticism over the last two years surrounding the staging of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar utterly ignores a number of key aspects which will make the run up and implementation of this premiere global sporting event unlike any previous or future FIFA World Cup, writes Tilman Engel, managing director, SBC International. All stakeholders, on any side of this equation, might want to consider several additional aspects.

Geography and Population

For the first time ever, an event of this magnitude has to be implemented within a small geographic region. Following large geographic hosts Brazil (8.5m km²) and Russia (17m km²), with its very specific regional and logistical issues, the same size event will then take place in an arid country of just 11,000 km², with currently developed areas of just above 1,200 km². To compound this challenge, most of the affected real estate is already densely inhabited by close to 1.7m people, a number which is set to grow to 2.7m by 2022. Unlike large scale countries, stretching the effects of run-up and implementation across a large region and affecting relatively few people, every aspect of life, business, social relations and human interaction in Qatar will be affected for at least 10 years and counting.

The tremendous demands to field an additional work force of several thousand educated, well trained and highly motivated staffers to fulfil all conceivable services, support, management and organisational requirements, which needs to be developed on top of the current work force, also has the potential to reshape the role of women and expatriate residents and workers in this society.

Accommodation Requirements

Whilst already hosting a plethora of international conferences and sporting events on an annual basis, Qatar has so far hardly experienced at any one time the influx of more than a several thousand sports visitors, athletes, media and officials in total. Just consider one set of numbers in this context: with a current (2013) hotel beds number of approximately 10,000, Qatar will have to host at the peak of the FIFA World Cup, some additional 300,000 visitors, media workers, service providers and official sponsors.

FIFA requires hosting nations to provide at least 60,000 hotel rooms, about six times more than currently available. Whichever multiplier is actually used, it might as well apply to any other services, HR, event, tourism, entertainment options and infrastructure needs, required to eventually host the event.

Culture and Religion

This will be the first time that the FIFA World Cup has been hosted in Arab Muslim country – part of the inevitable (sports) emancipation form Western dominance.

Whilst voices in the Northern hemisphere have demanded for the FIFA World Cup to only be staged in a ‘perfect location’, this claim looks quite different if viewed from an African, Mid-Eastern or even central Asian perspective.

At this time, and for many FIFA World Cup cycles to come, Qatar is the only country from the Maghreb, far across Central Africa and Asia, which is both able and willing to host and underwrite an event of such epic proportions in a larger cross-regional context of over 3bn people.

Venues and Infrastructure

In addition to the required sporting venues, Qatar is also in progress to enhance, and many areas build from scratch the core infrastructure, transportation and industry basis necessary to sustain a FIFA World Cup. Unlike many previous hosting nations, where the event has often been the defining purpose of all investments, the FIFA World Cup in Qatar is designed to serve as a catalyst to drive and deliver an even much more ambitious goal. With Qatar the National Vision 2030, Qatar has embarked on a 20 plus year unprecedented comprehensive social, human, environmental, economic and comprehensive development programme with the goal to change the current national economy from the export of liquefied natural gas toward a knowledge-based economy. Whilst the total directly-related FIFA World Cup projects might run up to $15bn, Qatar’s National Vision includes projects valued at $300bn.

Utilising the know-how, expertise and human resources amassed to initially deliver the 2022 threshold, and future potential bench marks as the Summer Olympics, Qatar is destined to embark on a challenging route to leverage its economic and human turn-around across the Muslim-Arab hemisphere. Already, Qatar has become a key player in political, economic and broad based charitable involvement across the region, yielding a power of influence way above and beyond its modest size and population.

With a refined outcome of the Qatar National Vision processes, these newly developed assets may then also provide key economic and political leverage to Central and South East Asia with it strong Muslim communities. For more than 10 years, the dominant national charity organisation ‘Reach out to Asia – ROTA’, as well as the cross-continental activities of Qatar’s Aspire Academy is testimony to this vision. 


And the overall 2022 tournament set will be epic, as it does have the potential to become the most impressive FIFA World Cup since Germany 2006, with a legacy which will not just transform an entire country within the span of just one generation, but also held to redefine the power of international sports in the definition and rapprochement of adjacent cultures.

In the end, the overall success of this FIFA World Cup will not be measured in tons of concrete poured and cast iron, but in the way, an entire population opens up, involves itself and welcomes the world to its doorstep. And in Qatar, due to the geographic limitations and the very limited time available, it will massively affect every single person, male or female, citizens or residents, to an extent that no other country has been exposed to in recent history in a constructive way.


Additional information