The soccer cup is set to enter unchartered territories. FIFA on Thursday handed over the hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively. While the losers of the bid have cried foul and reiterated allegations of corruption against the governing body of world soccer, concerns over Russia and Qatar being risky choices have emerged.
Russia and Qatar beat the likes of England, America, South Korea, Australia and other dominant football playing nations to take home the hosting rights of the once-in-four-year global sporting sensation.
As the curtains fell on one of the most controversial World Cup votes, the international media as well as the internet was set abuzz by responses from upset authorities and angry fans from the losing countries.
The U.S. President Barack Obama was outright when he told the reporters, I think it was the wrong decision.
Angry responses poured in on the microblogging siteTwitter as well. One among the innumerable angry tweets from Americans that has been quoted by several newspapers goes, Qatar? Time to stop playing along. They can come to us when they want us to care about soccer again. They can bribe us next time.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who along with Prince William and football icon David Beckham led the heavyweight lobbying offensive for 2018 bid, told reporters, According to FIFA we had the best technical team, no one could identify any risks of coming to England. I think we had the strongest commercial bid and the country is passionate about football.
But it turns out that's not enough.
Speaking to BBC Radio, former England team manager Graham Taylor, launched a rather scathing attack saying, FIFA, as far as I'm concerned, is full of people who say 'yes' to your face and 'no' behind your back.
As the world responds to the snowballing controversy amid several allegations of corruption and rigged voting, worries over Russia and Qatar being risky instead of right choices have surfaced despite promising plans of both the countries.
Risks: Infrastructure and Transportation
While Russia is a large country, there are doubts over its capabilities in holding a sporting event of this magnitude. Football World Cup involves not only 32 participating nations but also brings with it a huge influx of fans in millions. The country may have to build stadiums from scratch to accommodate and appease the fans with modern equipment and infrastructure.
The fact that Russia is a large country poses a challenge in terms of transportation. Fans have to be provided with means to travel across cities spread from the Baltic Sea in the west to the Ural Mountains that form the European boundary with Asia. So, the country will have to massively revamp its transport system. This includes challenge of readying airports and trains, besides taking care of public works.
On a positive note, Russia has already begun preparing for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. This will give the country head start on sports infrastructure.
Russia has vowed to build ten new stadiums from scratch. It has also promised to improve the transport system before 2018.
A 2018 World Cup will be up to the highest standards, new modern stadiums will be built in time and to perfection: we are eager to do our best for the comfort and safety of our guests, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said, asserting in Russia we have a lot of fans of your football.
Risks: Weather and Culture
Qatar is a tiny oil-rich country with unlimited financial resources. However, the potential risks stem from the prevailing weather conditions and socio-cultural and religious factors.
The Middle East desert is known for its extreme weather conditions. It may be recalled that the 2006 Asian Games in Doha were marred by heavy rains. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) sources had back then even hinted that the adverse experience of getting soaked to the bone in Qatar may negatively affect the country's 2016 Summer Olympic Games bid. For the football world cup the conditions will be on the other end of the weather spectrum. The tournament is slated to be held in the summer, when the country experiences intense heat. The searing hot temperature poses a health risk not only to the players but also to the fans.
Also, if the same heat prompts hot and thirsty fans to seek refuge on a beach, where they would hope to sip a drink and sunbath in bikinis on the Persian Gulf, how would the country, which follows a rather strict set of Islamic law handle the situation?
Qatar also faces high security threat. However, this negative factor is no longer exclusive to some countries as all major events no matter where they are hosted have come under terror threat in the past.
Qatar begun the campaign to nullify all the concerns as soon as the country's name was announced on Thursday. Besides promising to build air-conditioned stadiums to keep players and fans comfortable in a climate-controlled environment, Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Than, the chief executive of the Qatar 2022 bid committee, vowed to fight against all the misconceptions about Qatar and Qataris. This includes not only the negative perception about the climate but also wrong belief that the country holds orthodox ideals.
Again this is another misconception that women are repressed in the Middle East and this is a wrong, wrong perception. So we hope that by bringing the FIFA World Cup to Qatar, we will be able to change that, said the US-educated Hamad al-Thani.
We go to new lands: FIFA
FIFA, probably the most maligned sports governing body, said it was keen on sailing into unchartered territories.
Its earlier decision to take the 2010 World Cup to South Africa was largely hailed across the world. The 2010 tournament was a huge success as people from all races mingled into the crowd to prove that apartheid was long dead.
On Thursday, FIFA president Sepp Blatter also asserted that the 2018 and 2022 decisions were largely influenced by the desire to take the sport to newer lands.
I have to say thanks to the executive committee because for 2018 and 2022 we go to new lands..., he said.
Trying to console the bid losers, the 74-year-old added, All have delivered the message that football is more than just a game. Football is not only about winning -- it is also a school of life where you must learn to lose, and that is not easy.