It’s fairly absurd that the World Cup a full generation away from us in 2026 is critical for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting bids, but there’s a chain reaction if China signals even a little more firmly that it will bid for the 2026 World Cup before FIFA’s 24-man Executive Committee makes its determinations on 2018 and 2022 in December. With China looking like a shoo-in for 2026 if it bids, that decision would essentially guarantee the United States would win the race for the 2022 World Cup.
This is because FIFA will not allow one confederation to host two consecutive World Cups, and China would be a shoo-in for 2026; with a European nation 99% certain to get the 2018 World Cup, that means 2022 will go to one of five bidders: Australia, South Korea, Japan, Qatar or the United States. And only the latter is not in the Asian Football Confederation alongside China, following Australia’s move on the pitch to Asia a few years ago.
Meanwhile, Simon Kuper’s dismissal of Qatar’s bid in the Financial Times this week prompted a swift response. Kuper wrote that “Qatar is spending oil money on lobbying. But few foreigners want a World Cup played in the desert, in indoor stadiums in 40-degree heat. Choosing Qatar would look a choice for money. That would make Fifa look tacky.”
That prompted Qatar 2022 chief executive Hassan Al Thawadi to respond in a letter published in the FT:
“First, the Qatar 2022 bid committee, in co-operation with a talented team of local and international science, technology and environmental experts, has developed the capability to cool outdoor stadiums, training grounds, FIFA fan fests/fan zones and walkways from metro stations to venues.
“Players and fans will enjoy temperatures not exceeding 27°C, and all of this will be accomplished using carbon-neutral technology. These cooled outdoor stadiums will be in a concentrated area, allowing fans to see more than one match per day.
“Second, Qatar is a vibrant and dynamic economy, set to grow by up to 20 per cent this year according to some estimates. While petroleum and gas resources are a key part of our growth, they are by no means the only source of revenue.
“Thousands of foreign and domestic companies providing a variety of non-energy related goods and services are based here.
“Furthermore, Qatar’s bid is playing firmly within FIFA’s rules, which include full disclosure of fund disbursement and written notification prior to talking with any FIFA’s executive committee member.”
Kuper is probably right; Qatar’s bid would have been stronger as part of a regional bid, as Todd Reisz points out. Right now, the favourites are the global heavyweights: Russia for 2018, United States for 2022 and China for 2026, quite the superpower line-up.