The numbers behind hosting a football world cup

The 2022 FIFA Football World Cup kicks off in Qatar on Sunday with the host nation facing off against Ecuador in what is the most expensive world cup of all time and the biggest sporting event ever held in the Middle East. It is the first time a World Cup has been held in an Arab and Muslim-majority country.

Qatar has spent comfortably over $200 billion preparing for the tournament, which has been marred by controversy and criticism since day 1. The 2018 edition of the tournament was the most expensive edition at the time when Russia shelled out close to $14 billion. Brazil spent around $12 billion when it hosted the world cup in 2014.

It is important to note that previous hosts of the tournament have had a robust footballing culture and infrastructure, something that Qatar did not enjoy. This meant that the country had to go the extra mile in order to accommodate the demands of this tournament, which is among the most viewed sporting events in the world.

Despite being hosted in the winter season for the first time in its history, experts say players are at risk of suffering heat stroke in Qatar during the World Cup. To assist the players, Doha has built air conditioners into as many as seven stadiums.
Popular footballing nations, not just limited to European nations, have been critical of the way Qatar has gone about preparing for the tournament. Corruption, human rights abuses, hostility towards homosexuals, and for some, lack of beer at stadium sites. The Qataris hardly advanced their cause when their World Cup ambassador (and former national player) Khalid Salman described homosexuality as “haram” (forbidden), and “damage in the mind.”

Despite the barrage of criticism and flak, the tournament is expected to garner record viewership, in Qatar and elsewhere.

The numbers

Since winning the competition to hold the World Cup in 2010, Qatar has spent more than $250 billion on soccer-related development, a figure that dwarfs the estimated $42 billion that China spent on the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the $55 billion that Russia spent on the Winter Olympics in 2014.

Ten billion has gone to eight soccer stadiums. The rest was devoted to a wholesale transformation of the country: the complete remodelling of downtown Doha; the construction of nearly a hundred new hotels; the expansion of the port and the airport; a revamped road system; the creation of three metro lines; and a new city with homes for more than a quarter of a million people.

It is no surprise that the country, with a population of fewer than three million people, has spent big bucks in the last decade, to host the sport’s biggest event. The country is expected to see around 1.2 million fans for the tournament, and while many may stay in neighbouring countries, accommodation in Qatar itself has been a big challenge for organizers.

Here is where Qatar’s neighbouring countries are set to benefit. Of the more than 90 new daily flights into Qatar, 40 will be from the UAE, and Dubai, a 45-minute hop to Doha, will be the main gateway to the tournament. Saudi Arabia and Oman are counting on a spillover of tourists: If your team is eliminated in the first round, what easier place to console yourself than on a beach along the Red Sea or the Indian Ocean?

Last month, authorities started to release thousands of rooms that had previously been blocked off to the public. In October, a government spokesperson said it’s on track to provide 130,000 rooms for the tournament, and that more than 117,000 rooms are currently available.

Reports suggest that the one-month tournament is on course to top the roughly $5.4 billion in revenue that the 2018 World Cup in Russia generated for football’s governing body FIFA.

FIFA has reportedly pre-sold broadcasting rights, about 240,000 hospitality packages and nearly three million tickets for the event. The World Cup is sponsored by major brands including Adidas AG and Coca-Cola Co.

Tournament chiefs say that 2.9 million of the 3.1 million tickets have been sold, with fans waiting outside ticketing centres in hopes of seeing top games.

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