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The perfect time to discuss World Cup and 2022

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network


What if you threw the world's largest party and no one came? A great deal of party planning is precisely what could occur in the Middle East over the next decade, as Qatar has made a bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup while Dubai's 2020 Olympic Games feasibility study is underway.

Even with the high hopes for those events, the landscape there is unlikely to change.

It has not done so for centuries and there is no reason some magical or divinatory prophesy or occurrence will change that. Doom and gloom? Not really. Reality would be a more apt description.

Sports can alter much. They can bring people together, stop wars (or at least create a pause of sorts), mandate and necessitate revitalization of the venue where the event is taking place, restructure the surroundings, create jobs and opportunities, and cast an international shadow and awareness not otherwise known or appreciated by the world at large. But does its mere presence act as a precursor to promises made and achieved? Maybe, big maybe.

Both Qatar and Dubai want to enter the world stage and present themselves as more than where outside perception has placed them presently. Is that possible?

The country of Qatar is slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut.
Qatar, with a population of just over 1.4m or so, less than a busy neighborhood in a city like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or San Francisco, not to mention some international ones, has a shortage of World Cup-standard stadiums but wants to become the first Arab nation to host the event. The bad news is that the folks intent on disrupting the planet as we know it and would like it to be, most of whom are secreted in and operating from Arab soil, are salivating at the potential of the disorder, interference, confusion and havoc they could create. They would despoil and trash the effort. Security would reach new heights, but would it be enough?

Sacking and trashing the Games would be a black eye from which Arab nations as a whole might never recover in the eyes of the international community and those that fund and fuel the efforts of these seditionary, defiant and seemingly uncontrollable groups might be able to claim the only victory.

On the other hand, the Games on Arab soil might be as fluid as the oil flow that emanates from many of those countries. The bid by Qatar is politically being presented as an effort toward Arab unity to draw on the support of the entire Arab world, intended to bridge the gap between theirs and the Western worlds. Smart, very smart.

But, how do you feel about some seriously extreme temperatures? The FIFA World Cup is held in June and July. Get out the sun block if you are in Qatar during those months, as in the strongest available to you. The average daytime temperature is in excess of 104?F. And, one would not call 86?F cooling off a bit. Also, close your eyes for a moment and take a quick picture of the customary garments worn by the local populace. This is not a country where you will be encouraged to bring your thongs, bikinis, Spandex garb, or to head to the topless beaches during a respite in the competition.

Mother Nature versus technology. A stadium with controlled temperatures but no thoughts for the outdoors and what, if any, would make sense? Five proposed stadiums at the outset, technology capable of cooling things down quite a bit and there is talk of disassembling the upper tiers of the stadiums after the World Cup, donating them, all 170,000, to countries with less developed sports infrastructures. However, the question that I have, the one in your mind right now, is, 'Doesn't there have to be a stadium first upon which these tiers will be placed?' Hmmmmm."

Al Sadd Stadium will have to be upgraded if Qatar is to win the World Cup rights in 2022.
They do point to the Al Sadd Stadium, 14,000 seating (or standing), with lines of vents around the pitch and under spectators' seats, pumping out cool air. That's nice, but 14,000 capacity isn't cutting it.

The Arab nations (comprising 22 countries), claim they deserve a World Cup but, between them, cannot put a halt to the activities of the radicals or their despotism. Tthese miscreants who hide themselves within the borders of the same countries that are part and parcel of the bid are menacing the very nations and populace that Qatar wants to invite to the Games. Using the organization of the Asian Games (held in 2006), and due to host the 2011 AFC Asian Cup is not necessarily the qualifier - just a hint of what might be.

Check your map - Qatar is a country just across the Persian Gulf from Iran - 'risk-free' is not printed on the tickets to the proposed matches.

With nine bids in place for the World Cup, only four are solely bidding for the 2022 World Cup Games - Australia, South Korea, Qatar and Japan - the precious few, so to speak.

Qatar will point to The Aspire Academy for sports excellence. Years ago, this was a desert and now there is a sports school and cluster of indoor sports venues - an outstanding basketball court and an athletic arena that hosted the 2010 World Indoor Athletic Championships in March. Then there is the full- sized, artificial turf football ground with a seating capacity of 6,000, not to mention an Olympic-size swimming pool. There is more and it all adds up to 13 different sporting events hosted simultaneously under one roof, the largest dome of its kind in the world. Impressive.

Qatar is about the same size as Corsica - dots on the global map. Where will they put about 32 teams and all that they bring, including fans from around the world, somewhat rabid, over-enthusiastic, carried away by the games and representing a horde that demands much? On top of one another would be an apt description, albeit not a very picturesque or comforting one.

However, there are McDonald's here and there, Carrefour supermarkets and Doha is seeking to placate and entice the western world. Heck, the catering contract at the Khalifa Stadium is held by Fauchon, out of Paris, and the well-respected Place de la Madeleine.

How impressed might FIFA be with three new state-of-the-art stadiums, unveiled in April 2010? Al Shamal, 45,120 capacity located in North Qatar, on the edge of the Persian Gulf; Al Khor, 45,330 seating in the northeast, set in its own park setting and a flexible roof that provides shade over the pitch; Al Wakrah 45,000 in the south, another park setting with pool, spa zone, sports facilities and shopping mall. Their other two existing stadiums will be expanded if they win the bid - al Rayyan, northwest of Doha, can double its capacity to 44,740 with a special membrane that can double as a giant screen - really, really big; and al Gharafa, close to Doha, can also double to the same capacity with a modular upper tier.

High on the 'why?' list of responses is an anticipated Middle East population of 400 million over the next decade. Can all of this promulgation, promotion, plugging, publicizing and persuasion convince the world that awarding the FIFA World Cup to Qatar will bring the west closer to the east and bridge the wide gaps that now exist? Tough call but not impossible. The vote takes place on 2 December 2010 in Zurich, Switzerland.

All of this brings us to Dubai and its bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games. This country is like a bank that has had a negative run by its customers due to the global financial crisis that began in 2008 but Sheikh Muhammad Bin Rashid Al- Maktoum, VP of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai has his focus on the Olympics. The nation is running short of oil, knows it and is intent on becoming one of, if not the premiere tourist destinations in the world. What better vehicle to announce and perpetuate that than with the Olympics? The weather, as with Doha, is a prime concern and the dates, the months, of the Olympics will not be changed.

Doha lost the bid for the 2016 Olympics due, in the main, to it wanting to change the dates to October, thanks to the weather. Dubai cannot even remotely suggest that. It is August and that is that!! Hot, hot, hot!! Also, Dubai is counting heavily on its oil exporting neighbor, Abu Dhabi, to help out financially as the leading member of the seven-member United Arab Emirates federation. It's good to be rich and even better to have rich relatives and neighbors. The initial budget for this effort, the one necessary to create the infrastructure and the venues for the Olympic Games began with close to 10 billion British pounds. You could purchase most third-world countries for that amount of money.

Dubai lays claim to being the sports capital of the Middle East with such events as the Desert Classic PGA Golf Tournament, UIM Class One Powerboat World Championships, ATP Dubai Tennis Open, Dubai Sevens Rugby Tournament and Dubai World Cup horse race. But an event like the Olympic Games is a different animal altogether.

Can sports serve to unify people with decidedly differing views of the world, can it convince the violent to speak to the peaceful, coalesce conflicting societal contradictions, and solve the problems of divergence and chaos, change disaccord to accord? It is a Herculean task but if someone does not do it, if the Qatars and Dubais of the world do not recognize it for what it is then the heat of the desert will be like nothing compared to the heat of what awaits. They are to be commended and wished well for their efforts, for what they believe can be accomplished. In a divisive society like ours has become, what better places to bring people together for one of the few avenues that unites us all - sports - and attempt to dismantle that which has begun to separate us and threaten our very existence?

Of course if these countries, the Arab coalition, really wanted to bring people of the world together the ultimate achievement would be to call upon their neighbors that turned the desert into flowering oasis, agricultural fields, technological wonders of achievement and possessed of all the talent necessary to complement and support the efforts being undertaken. But that, of course, would mean a total reversal of form. It would also mean one of the biggest steps forward that this part of the world has ever seen. That would take real 'chutzpah' - but it is what has always moved our world forward in one fashion or the other...in other words, just do it!

And, no doubt, the inhabitants of the country to which I am referring just might entertain greater participation in the events planned than had been on the table prior to the invitation which I am suggesting being made. Israel would respond favorably. Of that I am certain.

Qatar and Dubai. FIFA World Cup and Olympics. Why not? Indeed, why not? Two parties that just might draw more guests than one can imagine, walking hand in hand, cheering, laughing, partying together, sharing and having a grand time. Athletes, whether winning or losing, congratulating one another, exchanging shirts, mementos and e-mail addresses, walking out together - arm in arm, both before and after. Venues for sports that expand and become tourist destinations, welcomed warmly. I say throw the parties, send out the invitations and get ready for a hell of an event - football (soccer) and the summer Olympics. Just bring sun block, a hat, cool clothes, lots of water, your cameras and an attitude to equal that of the host country.