Qatar, football and after

It’s been interesting reading the comments about Qatar getting the 2022 World Cup.

I think The Middle East Channel at Foreign Policy summed it up best:

FIFA, whose member associations are predominantly from the global south and whose executive committee has a truly global mix, appears to have switched from profit maximization — which would have led them to choose England for 2018 and the United States for 2022 — to global reach and patronage as its main concerns.

And there is nothing wrong with placing the most important sports event in the world in different places around the world — as long as those places can provide the proper facilities and security.

But there have been questions about Qatar — by the way, the AP Stylebook says the country’s name is pronounced GUH’-tur — from politics (What will happen if Israel qualifies?) to the natural need of football fans to have a few drinks to the weather and the concerns of one Canadian journalist: “Let’s just say it is not a swell place to be a gay, female journalist.”

The temperature during the day can hit 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius). Qatar said they will play the games at night — when it is a balmy 80F — and will build 10 zero-carbon, air-conditioned stadiums.

Here is something that I found interesting and have not seen any follow-up: After the tournament, part or all of these facilities will be dismantled and reassembled in the developing world.

Yet, I have not seen reports of anyone questioning Qatar about what will happen to those stadiums after they are delivered. To me, this is the big question.

Keeping top of the line, high-tech stadiums working properly requires a skilled and educated work force.

I have seen plenty of governments build new and beautiful facilities only to have those projects end up looking like a studio set of a Mad Max movie within a year or less. A lot has to do with the governments not having the necessary funds to maintain the project. It also has to do with places that have the money but little history or culture of maintenance.

What Qatar should be doing RIGHT NOW is deciding what countries will get those stadiums. Then it should send teams into those countries to set up education programs that emphasizes the skills necessary to keep the stadiums operating. A big investment in general education wouldn’t hurt either. These steps would a far greater legacy for the Qatar World Cup than just donating white elephants to countries ill-equipped to handle the technology.

This type of largesse always sounds nice but no one seems to look deeper. And this is true no matter where the tech transfer comes from.

I recall stories of the Soviet Union sending massive tractors to China in the 1950’s only to have the tractors get stuck in the small rice paddies of China. Think about the factories sent to the developing world by U.S. and European companies. The workers did not learn anything. What they did was done by rote and damn little to improve the educational level of the workers.

Too often the media report the grand gesture but rarely go back to see if that gesture paid off a year or two later.

Maybe it is time someone started to do so. And start questioning the grand gesture.

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