When Qatar beat out the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia to be named host of the 2022 World Cup in December 2010 there were concerns in the media and within soccer's governing body that the event had been "bought." The wealthy nation's historic bid to bring the World Cup to the Middle East called for air-conditioned stadiums, promised billions of dollars in infrastructure improvement and came with the paid-for seal of approval of French soccer legend Zinedine Zidane.
Not even four years after BBC Sport proclaimed "Money is no object" when listing the small oil- and gas-rich nation's strengths as a possible host for the World Cup, there are indications that organizers may be unwilling or unable to actually pay for staging the event as planned. The Qatar organizing committee’s senior manager for projects, Ghanim Al Kuwari, recently revealed the country would be building just eight stadiums, as opposed to the originally announced 12, reported Bloomberg News. The organizers of the Qatar World Cup subsequently admitted that construction plans were being revisited.
"This is the same process that all FIFA World Cup host nations undergo. For Qatar, the process of selecting the final proposed lineup of host venues is ongoing," the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy said in a statement obtained by The Associated Press. "The requirement is a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 12."
Brazil is expected to use 12 stadiums for the 2014 World Cup and 10 were used in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. The last time a World Cup was hosted in eight or fewer stadiums was 1978 in Argentina, according to MLSSoccer.com.
“Their decision was motivated by cost-cutting following an assessment of the real needs on the ground,” John Sfakianakis, chief investment strategist at investment company MASIC in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said in an e-mail to Bloomberg News. “It does always make good sense to do necessary cost-cutting and reviews of capex for such huge projects that are front-loaded.”
A Winter World Cup?
The number of stadiums constructed might not even be the biggest difference between the plans Qatar initially touted to FIFA and the reality in 2022. With average daytime temperatures of 106 degrees Fahrenheit in the Middle Eastern nation during summer months and an architect involved in one of the largest stadiums dismissing the bold air-conditioning claims, the 2022 World Cup may make an unprecedented moved from June and July to November and December.
"If it's played between November 15 and the end of December, that is when the weather is most favorable," FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told a French radio station in January, reported CNN.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has also publicly addressed moving the World Cup to winter.
"I caused a stir a few months ago by saying that we had to take a lead and see if we could play in winter. Because 45 degrees Celsius in summer, it's not possible. FIFA's Executive Committee therefore decided to make some consultations, the results of which need to be waited for," Blatter told weekly soccer magazine France Football in January, via ESPNFC. "We'll take a decision at the end of this year if possible, or in 2015. There's no rush. Personally, I think that if there's a will, there's a way."
Construction And Corruption
As FIFA ponders a potential change in season for the 2022 World Cup, the construction already in progress in Qatar has come under intense scrutiny for possible human rights violations. In September 2013, the Guardian reported that dozens of migrant workers from Nepal had already died and that thousands more "face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery." The International Trade Union Confederation followed up in March with a scathing report alleging labor and human rights abuses after visiting labor camps near Doha. That report claimed migrant workers were toiling in "unbelievable heat" six days a week and dying in "unprecedented numbers." Citing data from the Indian and Nepalese embassies, the report estimated that up to 4,000 more workers could die before the 2022 World Cup.
Within days of the ITUC report, FIFA was facing calls to address the alleged abuses of migrant workers as well as dealing with a new damning report about internal corruption. In March, The Telegraph alleged that Jack Warner, the former FIFA vice president, was paid $1.2 million from a company controlled by former Qatari soccer official Mohamed Bin Hammam not long after the vote on the 2022 World Cup host. Payments to Warner's sons were also made by the same company, reported The Telegraph. Bin Hammam was the president of the Asian Football Confederation and a member of FIFA's 24-man executive committee at the time of the vote for the host of the 2022 World Cup. Both have since resigned from their positions.
"If two of the most senior people in world football could have been involved in a scandal like this, how broad did it go? FIFA have never really answered these questions," Damian Collins, a U.K. member of parliament, said to The Telegraph.
In hopes of addressing such concerns, FIFA's independent ethics commission is investigating claims of bribery over the 2022 World Cup vote as well as the vote that awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia.
"An investigation is being run by [New York lawyer] Michael Garcia and the commission is interviewing all those involved in the case and it will soon be delivered to the [FIFA] ethics committee that is going to decide if any measures should be taken," Valcke told reporters on Friday, via Reuters. "That will be soon, maybe we will have a decision before the 2014 World Cup."