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World Cup Qatar, football and politics | Be careful

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For the first time in history, an Arab country has entered the world sports arena. The 2022 World Cup in Qatar could boost the Gulf region as a global sports hub, hosting major athletics, motorcycling and golf events, among others. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have already expressed interest in hosting the Olympics.

These big sporting events don’t seem to matter. In comparison, traditional oil and gas projects have clear returns on investment based on hydrocarbon revenues. But the aim is to develop new sectors and diversify the region’s economy. With their economies open to global scrutiny, the local industries must reform and improve their standards.

Because of its scale, large events have multiple links to other sectors of the economy, with tourism, transport and finance among other beneficiaries.

Since being selected to host the World Cup, Qatar has invested $5.3 billion in contracts for facilities directly related to the tournament. But this represents only 3% of the total value invested in construction or transport projects that indirectly supported the World Cup: about $195 billion.

Since the earliest sporting exhibitions in the cities of ancient Greece, competition between athletes was not only. Other hidden agendas, so-called soft power, used sports as an area of ​​geopolitics under totalitarian or military regimes, also some democracies, or to build relationships, to increase popularity or improve the image of a country.

Tournaments bring together national teams made up of players from different ethnic backgrounds, all defending the same jersey and colors with passion. In the case of football, despite the contradictions, sport contributes to integration, promotes diversity, and creates frameworks of contact at a time when misunderstandings are increasing. Millions of fans and fans want to vibrate with emotions with their favorite football players and teams, regardless of color, nation or religion. This is the message that should be sent out at a time of increasing tension between extremists on all sides.

On a social level, football has achieved more than politics in terms of integration and emphasizing the richness and possibilities of diversity in societies.

For Qatar, hosting the World Cup has been a challenge in many ways and criticism of human rights has not subsided. But from an economic point of view, by joining the global communities linked to these events, countries must commit to international norms and responsibilities.

The Qatari model assumes high risk in a field where alliances and enemies change rapidly, politically and economically.. The state, small in size, but large in projection, must develop a coherent long-term strategy that cannot be based on infrastructure or events alone without a balance between the individual and the social level.

There is a stark contrast between the great oil wealth and development opportunities, combined with the lack of transparency associated with a very traditional region that is trying to push for change surrounded by uncertainty and the ever-increasing social and political rights. Internal and external criticism can be valuable; no one can make progress in a bubble.

The goal is to position itself as a major knowledge hub, partner with the best and build an international reputation – let’s see if Qatar can win this game.

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