Not long after Russia and Qatar were announced as hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, outcry over FIFA’s decisions popped-up around the Internet. FIFA was called everything in the book, with corruption being the label of the day. How did two countries that seemed like long-shots not long ago come away with the right to host the World Cup? The easiest conclusion was to decide the bid were bought.
After all, just months ago, FIFA site inspectors visited Qatar, deeming the country too small, too short on infrastructure and too hot to host the World Cup. With temperatures well-above 100 degrees in the summer, concerns for player and spectator safety were an overwhelming theme in the site inspections. And with nothing more than promises of grand stadiums, a skeptical eye was cast at Qatar’s ability to pull-off the improbable.
Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl summed up the concerns, calling Thursday’s decision an indictment of FIFA while raising questions about the organization’s integrity.
The message here is that petrodollars talk. For an outfit that likes to thump its chest and claim that it is not corrupt (Trust us, says FIFA president Sepp Blatter), having two oil-wealthy winners is the clearest message possible that FIFA needs a complete overhaul in its leadership and organization. Russia had a pretty good case for being chosen, but Qatar (which was funded heavily by its government and bought the support of celebrity endorsers) didn’t make a lot of sense in the first place.
The cynic in me thinks he’s right; the 2022 World Cup was bought. The optimistic in me says this is FIFA trying to use the World Cup as a platform for something more. It gives FIFA the ability to expand its audience while putting on a unifying World Cup in the Middle East. The truth about the 2022 World Cup bidding process is probably somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.