Football's quadrennial extravaganza has just begun in Qatar, with the host country going down to Ecuador in the opening game on Sunday. More than five billion people will watch the matches in the next 30 days, until the final plays out in the Lusail stadium on December 18.
Fifa World Cup 2022 has already become one of the most controversial mega sporting events. While alleged human rights violations by the host country have irked world capitals, rights watchdogs have decried the use of forced labor all through the run-up to the Cup. The criticism that Qatar had won the right to hold the Cup by funneling money to grease the palms have persisted. Close to the event, the ban on liquor, the crackdown on gay rights and other hardline policies have also besmirched the Cup.
However, the 2022 World Cup will probably be most remembered for insane amount of money involved. It is by far the most expensive World Cup ever, with some estimates even saying that Qatar 2022 will be more expensive than all the previous 21 editions combined.
Qatar is estimated to have spent more than $200 billion for the World Cup. It has been estimated that the tiny oil-rich Gulf state has been spending $10 million each day since it won the right to hold the Cup more than a decade ago. Most of the petrodollars were spent on infrastructure such as stadiums, roads, metro systems, hotels and a new airport.
For comparison, the previous World Cup in Brazil in 2018 cost less than $15 billion. When Qatar was awarded the Cup the estimate was that the country would spend $65 billion, However, the actual spending has gone several times higher.
Why is Qatar Sending An Astronomical Sum?
According to US sports finance consultancy Front Office Sports, the Qatari government is spending at least $220 billion on the World Cup. Qatar can definitely afford to spend that sum, but no country has ever spent even a fraction of that amount on a World Cup football. For comparison, South Africa spent $3.6 billion, while Germany spent $4.3 billion and South Korea and Japan together spent $7 billion on the World Cup.
For Qatar, the World Cup will be a commercial disaster but the country is eyeing the soft power it garners by hosting one of the world's most popular sporting events. The huge stadiums that Qatar built for the World Cup will practically become useless for the tiny country with a small population of less than 3 million. Some of these stadiums will have to be even dismantled after the Games, much unlike other cities where World Cup infrastructure turned into lasting legacies that people cherished.
"International relations are the key motivation for hosting the tournament and it is also about soft power as a defense and security strategy. Money is clearly no object to Qatar. The country can clearly afford to host a World Cup and is willing to absorb the losses attached ... In many ways, the 2022 World Cup is a financial anomaly," Dan Plumley, a lecturer in sports finance at Sheffield Hallam University, told DW.