Amid an onslaught of media criticism from around the world, the president of Qatar’s Football Association – and board member of the 2022 organizing committee – has written an article for a major British newspaper highlighting the reasons he believes the 2022 football tournament should be hosted in the country.
In recent weeks, public comments from Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy have largely been focused on denying recent allegations that officials bribed FIFA executives in exchange for votes.
However, in an op-ed for The Guardian‘s ‘Comment is Free’ section, Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmad Al Thani writes that despite its high summer temperatures and lack of footballing history, Qatar presented the most compelling case to host the tournament.
In the column, which is entitled ‘Qatar had the strongest bid for the 2022 Fifa World Cup. Here’s why,’ he also states that the country ‘played strictly by the rules’ during the bidding process:
“Fifa members were reassured, too, by our success in staging other major sporting events, such as the 2006 Asian Games, the 2011 Pan-Arab games and the 2011 Asia Cup.
Qatar’s compact size gave these events a very different feel, another positive for Fifa members. We spoke of a World Cup where teams and fans won’t have to fly huge distances between venues, unlike in Brazil, or in Russia in four years’ time. They recognised as well that Qatar is a stable and peaceful society with one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
The heat of our summer is seen by some critics as the main reason why we could not possibly have won fair and square. But we showed how matches could be played and watched in comfortable conditions.
I accept that we spent more money campaigning than other bids, but this was solely to catch up with our better known rivals. We had to tell people about our country and what we could offer, to overcome the perceived obstacles. But from the day we launched our bid to the day our country’s name was pulled from the envelope in Zurich, we played strictly by the rules.”
However, Al Thani’s arguments did not appear to sway those Guardian readers who were inclined to share their thoughts online. Virtually all of the 300 comments left on the article were negative, as was the response on Twitter:
— Jack Goodson (@jackgoodson12) June 21, 2014
FIFA has an investigator, Michael Garcia, looking into bribery allegations, and he is expected to file his conclusions next month.
However, this inquiry has failed to satisfy some, including the World Cup’s main sponsors, among them Adidas and Sony, who took the rare step of publicly expressing “concern” over the allegations in recent weeks.
In a separate development, a former White House security adviser has called recent media reports that FIFA ignored a report concluding Qatar was at a high risk of terrorism attacks “more of a smear campaign than honest journalism.”
Writing in the Eurasia Review, Quintan Wiktorowicz argues that Qatar’s geography and minimal history of terrorism offer no compelling case as to why the country faces a greater risk of violence than other bid nations:
“The UK Foreign Office’s foreign travel advice calls attacks in Qatar ‘unlikely’; and the 2014 assessment by firms Aon Risk Solutions and The Risk Advisory Group rates the risk of terrorism and political violence in Qatar as ‘negligible’ (the only country in the Middle East and North Africa with this rating).
For comparison, Qatar rates better in the 2014 assessment than both the United States and the UK, where the risk is considered ‘low.’”
Meanwhile, calls for Qatar to be stripped of the tournament continue. On Friday, US Senator Bob Casey wrote to FIFA asking that the 2022 World Cup be handed to his country “due to significant concerns regarding workers’ rights in Qatar and corrupt practices surrounding the original Qatari bid for the tournament.”