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Spotlight on Qatar

I came across an interesting portrait of the emir of Qatar –  Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani – in the Independent today. Qatar, of course, is very much in the news thanks to its winning World Cup hosting rights in 2022.  In the link to the article, you’ll see a photo of the smiling emir with the World Cup trophy. An interesting guy he is. Did you know a meeting he held with Dick Cheney lasted a mere seven seconds before he stormed out? In fact, sitting on the sidelines isn’t his thing – he’s inserted himself into regional issues in Israel, Lebanon and Egypt, using the television network Al-Jazeera as a bargaining chip to advance Qatar’s interests. That’s caught the ire of many of his neighbors or allies – from Iran to the United States. The article is full of rumor and conjecture, but it’s a fun and gossipy read. For better or worse, thanks to Wikileaks, that manner of news is undoubtably in vogue.

The World Cup is Coming to the Middle East!

The greatest sporting event on earth (sorry Olympics) is headed to Qatar in 2022. In a stunning decision, FIFA (soccer’s governing body) awarded the World Cup to the tiny Middle Eastern nation over bids from the U.S., Australia, South Korea and Japan. This result is unusual for several reasons. First, Qatar was a rank outsider throughout the whole bidding process. Second, FIFA recently published a technical evaluation of Qatar’s bid that deemed a tournament there a risky proposition, given the heat and other factors. And third, just consider the nature of Qatar itself – it’s smaller than Connecticut, its population is half that of Chicago and its June-July average temperatures are scorching (between 106-115 degrees). Qatar will have to build 9 out of the 12 stadia needed for the competition in just twelve years too. Personally, I think FIFA made the wrong decision. While it’s exciting to see the World Cup go to a new part of the world for the first time, I think the heat is just too oppressive of a factor. I’ve played soccer in 90 degree heat and it’s just a torturous experience. All of your energy is sapped making it impossible to play the game at full intensity. I think this will translate into a poor quality of games in 2022. Players will be simply too tired to play fast-paced games involving a lot of goals. Although Qatar bid officials have promised to build climate controlled stadia with circulating air conditioning mechanisms built-in (not domes, however) I think the technology is untested and thus unproven. Are all of these complaints coming from an American feeling jilted that his own country didn’t win the right to host the World Cup? Perhaps a smidge. But I still think FIFA should’ve awarded the games to more of a slam-dunk producing bid like the U.S’s or Australia’s.

Qatar – Future World Cup Host?

So a lot of readers probably don’t give a hoot about soccer but this article might interest you: the tiny nation of Qatar is trying very hard to host the 2022 World Cup. Qatar’s World Cup Bid However, FIFA (soccer’s governing body) has released a pretty damning techincal evaluation of Qatar’s bid, claiming the temperatures in June/July (when the competition is held) are just too high and thus present a major safety risk for the players. We’ll see if Qatar can pull out an underdog victory (they’re also competing aganist the U.S.) when the hosting decision is announced on December 2. In the meantime, having seen pictures of Dubai’s indoor ski slopes, I have a sneeking suspicion that the next Winter Olympics are coming to the Middle East. Half the sports are played indoors anyway, and wouldn’t you want to see Shaun White up to his tricks after working on your tan all day?