In the modern age of constantly shifting international relations and geopolitics, the role of sports as a vessel for diplomacy and the projection of ‘soft power’ has gradually been increasing and no other country than Qatar has demonstrated that quality more in the past decade or so.
Having gained independence only in 1971, Qatar have never historically been a prominent sporting nation with its relatively sparse population and size but the Arab country has still managed to thrust itself into the spotlight through various means.
The gulf country’s first major breakthrough in the sporting arena came in 2006 when it played host to the 15th edition of the Asian Games and there has been no turning back ever since. It is football, however, which has become Qatar’s biggest soft power projector of late as it gets ready to become the first Arabic nation in history to host the World Cup in 2022.
The significance of Qatar hosting one of the biggest sporting spectacles in the world cannot be understated.
A combined 3.572 billion people tuned in to watch the 2018 World Cup in Russia and a similar figure, if not better, can be expected in 2022. That does not include more than five million tourists from who visited Russia over the course of the month-long tournament.
The 2022 edition will provide Qatar the chance to showcase the very best of its heritage and culture to the global population for more than 30 days.
The oil and natural gas-rich nation has left no stone unturned to put on a spectacle for the ages with a state-of-the-art infrastructure set to greet both players and fans alike in the 2022 World Cup.
The big investment into the World Cup is only one of several steps Qatar has taken to elevate its global standing through the means of football. The state has been constantly adding to its already impressive portfolio of footballing investments with several shrewd investments.
The way in which they have set up their stadiums for the World Cup, seven out of eight of them are being built from scratch. Not only that, each and every one of them has been armed with pioneering technologies like the cooling technology and other impressive feats. Then, there is also the Challenge 22 - which is an innovation award challenging the creative and technological minds to find solutions in certain sectors which have been identified as ‘challenging'.
No doubt that the 2022 World Cup is set to be one of the most technologically advanced events in the world. In fact, this push for technology is part of the state of Qatar's Vision 2030 which seeks to build technology and innovation as an industry in itself. And it is this vision that the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Lefgacy (SC) is contributing towards through legacy projects such as cooled stadiums and Challenge 22.
There is also the case of the world-class Aspire Academy set up in Doha in 2004 which has provided the country with state-of-the-art football training facilities which have since been used by major international teams and athletes.
The Academy was also responsible for providing several players to Qatar’s rising football team which captured the county’s maiden AFC Asian Cup crown in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year.
The big push by Qatar into football is already paying off dividends with the country’s image at the global stage getting a massive fillip and it is only set to ascend higher in the coming years with the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup.