Friday, December 3, 2010

More Bitching About Qatar

Now that another 24 hours has passed since the news that FIFA has selected Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, more details are beginning to emerge.  And as the details are coming out, the decision to go with Qatar seems even more incomprehensible.

First, I serve up this: FIFA's internal survey of the Qatar bid, was classified as 'High Risk' AFTER the FIFA inspectors had visited Qatar.  And yet despite the 'High Risk' classification of the Qatar bid, they got the nod anyway.

Second, FIFA's internal reports also indicated that an American-hosted World Cup-- with all of our sports infrastructure already in place, and the extensive media assets across North America-- would likely result in the most profitable World Cup ever held.  But still Qatar got the bid.

Third, we now learn that a HUGE part of Qatar's bid was based on the concept of modular, pre-fabricated air-conditioned stadiums, to be strategically placed around the Connecticut-sized country for the event.  This is TOTALLY UNPROVEN TECHNOLOGY and yet FIFA is betting their Flagship Event that Qatar can actually pull this off, even though they have never hosted a world-class sporting event EVER.

How is this going to work, really?  I mean, are we going to see England vs. Argentina being held in Modular Stadium C-3 at the 38 Kilometer marker outside of some little desert settlement of perhaps 30,000 people?  It's beginning to look that way.  Make sure the air conditioning in the rental car you got in Doha is working smoothly.

And then there is this, from the Associated Press:

"Qatar, with a population of 841,000, has not only never hosted a World Cup but not even played in one. FIFA inspectors who toured the country, which is half the size of Israel and slightly smaller than Connecticut, cautioned that the intense heat in summer, when the tournament will be played, posed a potential health risk for players and fans.

Qatar allayed the fears of some — but not all — FIFA voters by promising that stadiums, training venues and areas for fans to party will be cooled with solar-powered air conditioning. But it has yet to be proven that the technology will work on such a broad scale, which prompted the American on FIFA's committee, Chuck Blazer, to quip: "I don't see how you can air-condition an entire country."

"Air-conditioning an entire country."  Indeed.  You can air-condition a stadium (maybe!), but you can't air-condition the Middle East in July.  Prepare for massive visitor bitching about the heat.  And what happens if Israel qualifies for this now-scheduled middle east world cup?  Think they might have a go at it?  Not a crazy thought; the Israeli leagues are good and getting better.  If you want a security nightmare, just wait 'till it's Israel vs. Iran in Qatar 2022.  Will Qatar really work with Israeli security to ensure the safety of the team, if the Israelis qualify?  Is it unreasonable to assume that some religious loonies on the Arabian peninsula might not think this is a great chance to do Allah's work by doing you-know-what to the drunken Infidels on our sacred land?  Oy gevalt, my head hurts thinking about it.  This is the sort of thing that makes this choice by FIFA a self-assessed 'High Risk' selection.

Given all that and plus the social and religious restrictions in Qatar that will certainly rub against western social mores, and I must predict that this could be one of the worst-attended World Cup events ever.  Maybe it would be better simply to plan not to go at all.

Look, I know that Sepp Blatter wanted to bring the World Cup to new lands.  I actually support that.  So OK, you chose Russia.  Wonderful.  The Russians at least have thrown this kind of Really Big Sports Party before, so I have confidence they can do it.  Good pick.  Mission Accomplished-- that is new ground for FIFA.  There-- you've brought the World Cup to a new country.  Congratulations.

But Qatar?  Really?  Having already picked Russia as your "new country," to follow that up with Qatar really looks like FIFA is dissing the USSF.  Given the overwhelming strength of the American bid to host the World Cup, and all of the dramatic negatives associated with Qatar's bid, and I can only conclude this:

Sepp Blatter & FIFA would rather send the world to the high desert in mid-July to play in modular pre-fabricated stadiums near little desert villages, rather than give the Americans another shot at this event.

I'm sorry, but this looks like an expensive and yet petty display of anti-Americanism by the FIFA bid selection committee.  Someone please prove me wrong.