Some of you may remember that I spent 10 days in Qatar during Volcanogedden. Which makes the announcement of the 2022 World Cup that rare thing – something I have unusual insight into. Blimey. What shall I do with this gift? I know, I’ll spend half an hour laughing hysterically at the decision.
An enormous sporting event? In Qatar? In June? I was there in April – and the weather was uncharacteristically cloudy and breezy – and it was still too hot for me to walk for longer than 10 minutes during the day. I’m fairly wussy when it comes to heat anyway but even ex-pats who live there can’t walk much further than that. I dread to think how oppressive it will be in June. Oh, I know the stadiums will be air conditioned, but fans aren’t going to spend all day in a stadium, are they?
Which leads to another question – what are fans going to do in between matches? There’s a very nice Islamic Art Museum which takes about an hour to go around, and some malls, and a souk, and I’m sure they’ll build some more attractions in the next 12 years. But Doha is one small city, expected to host half the games. God knows what the other host cities are like.
Yes, I know, there are 12 years to get facilities sorted but I can’t wondering – where are these people going to go? Sit around the designated drinking zones all day? I hope they’re going to be air conditioned as well. It’s too hot to sunbathe, it’s too hot to go dune bashing in the desert, unless you have a car you can’t travel anywhere (public transport within Doha is nil. Which is fair enough – nobody would be stupid enough to walk to a bus stop and wait in that heat).
And this is all before we get onto issues like homosexuality being illegal and treatment of construction workers. If you’ve never read Johann Hari’s article about the dark side of Dubai do so now. I’ll wait. Back? Yeah, Qatar’s not so different. From the window of my friends’ old apartment I could see lots of men from the Indian sub-continent working on a new tower block. They were bussed in and bussed out again – out to shacks at the edge of the desert where they lived. I’m still unsure whether what happened on the flight from Doha back to Abu Dhabi, being ushered to the business class check-in instead of standing in a queue full of construction workers and given the option to switch seats on the flight, was due more to attitudes towards these men or whether me being in close proximity to them without minding marked me out as whorish. Either way, it’s not brilliant. And these are the guys who will be building the shiny new stadiums.
Oh, and if you’re an Asian man on your own, you’re likely to be turned away from the shopping malls. This is officially claimed as policy for ‘family days’, but oddly, it doesn’t seem to apply to single white men.
I’m glad I went to Qatar, and I’d be happy to go back – to see my friends. I wouldn’t go for a random holiday, especially given my lack of driving skills. But even while I was there I was chuckling at the ‘Back the Bid’ flags hanging from the lampposts, thinking what a ridiculous idea it was, as we drove along the heat hazed road. I’ve not been following the accusations of FIFA corruption closely enough to pass any kind of pithy comment on how this decision came to be made, but I saw enough of Qatar in my brief sojourn to think the whole thing’s crazy. There are some fundamental issues with the hosting that can’t be solved by any technical wizardry.
Good luck with that.