Qatar’s Big Spending World Cup, Akram Belkaïd (Le Monde Diplomatic)

Venice? The interior of Doha’s Village Mall ready for the World Cup on October 12, 2022

Giuseppe Cacace AFP Getty

W.henIn December 2010, the Executive Committee of FIFA, the international football federation, chose Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup. Its capital, Doha, roared with joy. The ships in the harbor honked, joined by the Cornish’s expensive cars. Qatari media celebrated their country becoming part of the big leagues, with Emir Hamad bin He Khalifa, who ruled the emirate until he abdicated in 2013. was very pleased to be known by

However, criticism soon began. The football brotherhood condemned hosting the World Cup in a dry, desert country with no enthusiasm for the game. Regardless, it condemned bribery and corruption. NGOs also criticized the authoritarianism of this wealthy gas-rich emirate, which bans political parties and trade unions. Amnesty International’s 2011 report on the human rights situation in Qatar stated, “Women continue to face discrimination and violence. About 100 people remained arbitrarily stripped of their nationality Sentences of flogging were handed down No executions took place but the death sentence continued to be upheld It said it all.

Or it may not be perfect. In his next 12 years, the story of Qatar 2022 had a swell, with judicial investigations in the United States and France into FIFA’s highly controversial decisions and corruption within its leadership. Eye-popping reports of the plight of workers from Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines) and Africa (Kenya, Somalia, Sudan). Blaming the environmental damage caused by building six air-conditioned stadiums.

The list of fees grew longer month by month, but never seriously threatened the choice of venue. has failed. Qatar put its head down and spent tens of millions of dollars on image-boosting PR. Meanwhile, his $200 billion infrastructure budget (which includes his Metro system) has delighted hundreds of Western, Chinese, and Japanese companies.

outrage from abroad

Criticism reached new heights when the contest launched on November 20th. Apparently, it’s not too late to join in and everyone wants to voice their anger. On September 22, François Hollande said: “If I were the head of state, I would, given what we know about the conditions under which this Games will take place, both in terms of climate and construction work. is no longer head of state, so it’s easier for me.I won’t go to Qatar. was President, he had no such qualms. During an official visit to Doha in June 2013, he even promised that France would help Qatar “host a really great World Cup”. At that time, the envy of the Asian workers who had built Qatar and other Gulf oil countries for decades was already widely known. But Hollande, who was on a mission to sell the Rafale fighter, wasn’t overly concerned.

The city hall of Paris also suddenly decided to support Qatari workers and not set up a ‘fanzone’ to watch the games in public spaces during the Games. Deputy Mayor David Belliard defended the audacious boycott, saying it “condemns collusion with states that currently do not respect basic climate issues, social rules or the rule of law. Where to leave Saint-Germain Football Club? Qatar-owned since 2011 and close associate of current Emir Tamim Al-Thani, President Nasser Al-Khelaifi regularly calls on Paris Mayor Anne Inviting Hidalgo to the VIP stands at the Parc des Princes Broadcaster TF1 has decided not to mention Qatar in its World Cup trailer, but of course the match will still be shown.

If Qatar deserves to be boycotted, so should all Gulf monarchies, from Saudi Arabia to Oman, which have been boycotted for a long time. Hundreds of workers killed during construction of Qatar World Cup site However, many other workers had already died in Dubai during the construction of the Burj Khalifa, one of the tallest towers in the world in the 2000s. Its panoramic summit now attracts tens of thousands of tourists of all nationalities. And there is no talk of boycotting it.

In Oman, where large numbers of foreign workers are involved in the construction of the new city of Duqm, and their working conditions are hardly better than those of Qatari workers, those who propose shelving the popular Oman cycling tour No one is here. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have always been criticized for not respecting human rights, their role in the war in Yemen and their autocratic way of operating. No one is proposing to boycott the There is also no objection to the two cycling teams competing in the Tour de France, one funded by the UAE and one by Bahrain.

And what about the more widespread environmental damage caused by members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)? The six air-conditioned stadiums of the World Cup are an environmental disaster. But how does that compare to the thousands of tons of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) released from the air conditioning systems that make life in Qatar tolerable from March to October? At the summit, after heavy lobbying, the Gulf countries secured a postponement of the CFC ban until 2047 (2036 for others). However, there is no indication that they will meet this deadline. In Abu Dhabi, big hotels cool their pools in the summer. Dubai offers year-round skiing at its French-designed indoor resorts. This enormous energy consumption is hidden by a clever PR that promises green technology. The International Renewable Energy Agency is also based in his UAE, an oil giant.

storm of protest

By hosting the World Cup, Qatar is discovering the price of ambitions on the international stage. It’s one thing to host a World Trade Organization ministerial meeting that provided a convenient way. But the World Cup is different. As one of the world’s most watched sporting events, it’s impossible to escape attack, mistrust and jealousy. In this regard, Qatar could have learned from Kuwait, which encountered a storm of protest in her late 1980s. In the emirate he had a $200 billion war chest and was hunting bargains on Wall Street and the London Stock Exchange. Less than a year after the stock market crash on Black Monday (October 19, 1987), shares of major multinationals, including British Petroleum (BP), recently privatized by the Thatcher government, were cheap.

In early 1988, the Sovereign Wealth Fund’s Kuwait Investment Authority (KIO) offered a 22% stake for $2 billion to participate in BP’s strategic management. The idea of ​​an Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) bigwig having a say in how the British flagship operates has sparked outrage in London. Thatcher threatened retaliation if Kuwait increased its stake, and Labor leader Neil Kinnock warned that national interests would be at risk. KIO eventually agreed to reduce his share of BP’s capital.

In the U.S., which was already highly hostile to Japanese investors, many members of Congress became concerned about KIO’s hoarding of luxury real estate, especially in New York. France also got involved in the ‘Kuwait bashing’ as they hadn’t forgotten the 1982 World Cup in Spain. His royal status banning French goals was an unprecedented move in the history of football. It had to convince Western public opinion that Kuwait, however rich and arrogant it was, did not deserve to be annexed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in August 1990. . .

Kuwaiti leaders have learned from these setbacks and have kept a very low profile on the international stage for 30 years. Will Qatar do the same? That depends on whether the World Cup goes well and the conclusion of ongoing investigations. Saudi Arabia, which wants to stay in the spotlight, may even replace it in the role of the Gulf’s biggest villain: Egypt and Greece, or Morocco as co-hosts of the 2030 World Cup. I am already considering doing it. And it has just been selected as the venue for the 2029 Asian Winter Games. Qatar’s Big Spending World Cup, Akram Belkaïd (Le Monde Diplomatic)

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