When Qatar was awarded (or purchased) the 2022 World Cup an engineer friend of mine in The Emirates told me players would either die of heat on the field, or spectators would freeze in the top of stands because the air conditioning would have to be so fierce.
Quite an option but not one that officials spent much time thinking about. They had other things on their mind: namely the fortune they were being paid for their votes.
You didn’t really need to be across the Machiavellian ways of international soccer to know this deal made no sense. How is it possible that a tiny place with no football heritage (and no infrastructure) could handle one of the great and most complex sports events in the world.
FIFA’s own technical advisers had warned that Qatar was high risk, which is something of an understatement.
Of course, Qatar’s bid was never just about soccer but, rather, was part of a grander scheme to give legitimacy to a corrupt regime looking for a place in a rapidly changing region and world. They are party to Middle East sovereign wealth funds buying more and more assets in the West in order to leverage prestige, power and security.
The problem is complex and corrosive as Sport is being destroyed from the top – not the bottom.
The Times of London reports that legendary French star Michel Platini – now President of UEFA- voted for Qatar shortly after a meeting between then President Sarkozy, the Crown Prince of Qatar and the owner of Paris St Germain club Sebastian Sabin, who just happens to also head the massive Colony Capital. Platini’s son was later given a job with a sports company owned by Qatar. Platini has failed to explain why he voted for Qatar.
This is just one example of dozens of favours asked and given; of international politics playing out on the sports fields of the world.
There is plenty of evidence as well that the Olympics have long been the plaything of a small clique. This at the same time as Cricket and many other sports are revealed to be targets of illegal bookmakers and where allegations of corruption reach the highest levels.
It does little good catching the odd player or bookie when those running our games are, like Columbian drug bosses, milking their products for all they can get.
A few hiccups along the way is simply the price of doing business.