Since FIFA announced that Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup, the country has been under a microscope ever since. They have been intensely criticized for their labor laws, human rights, free speech and investments in sport. Qatar in its bid to become the center of sporting universe, is hosting almost 100 sporting events each year. It is estimated that Qatar, with its two and half million population, only 280,000 of which are Qatari nationals – will spend $200 billion on the 2022 World Cup. So we take a look at the ‘why’.
Let’s take a look at their economic structure first. Qatar is the richest country in the world when it comes to per capita income, a country that is blessed with the world’s largest natural gas reserves. But there is a shift, according to the CEO of the Qatar Financial Center Authority (QFCA), the non-oil sector’s contribution to Qatar GDP will be 70% by 2017. The country is shifting from a hydrocarbon-based economy to a more diverse and sustainable one.
Qatar’s investments and sponsorships in sport is strategically planned to put the country onto the ‘map’. The main goal is to gain recognition and respect and to develop a profile and prestige. Qatar has become the host of largest number of sporting events worldwide. For better or worse, sport has changed the face of the country since the past decade.
An official source from the Qatar government said in a release to the media said: “Twenty years ago, people in other countries had no idea what Qatar was. We were a Middle Eastern country with a very strong economy but no prestige. It is sport that has changed the whole image. In 2006, we held the Asian Games and let Asia get to know us. From then on, we have been holding more and more events to let people from all over the world know about our country.”
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Qatar has placed their national airline – Qatar Airlines as a vehicle to promote the country around the world in major sporting events, one of the biggest deals they executed was the multimillion-sponsorship deal with FC Barcelona, among others. Mega sporting events has given a push to Qatar’s tourism industry and increasing the overall revenue. According to a report from the World Travel & Tourism Council, the contribution of travel & tourism to Qatar’s GDP was 7.2% in 2016.
With the world cup 2022 in the horizon – this has kept the country on an edge; it has pushed the country to develop its infrastructure, sports stadiums and faculties, new and improved roads, hotels, a railway industry, airports and new cities.