By TBY | Qatar | Jun 15, 2014
While Qatar is making its mark in the world of football, it has a broader interest in a number of sports both on land and in the water.
While the population has a great love for sport, its clubs and national teams have enjoyed international success as the Qatari national football team won the Gulf Cup twice, in 1992 and 2004. One of the most successful teams in the country is Al Sadd, a multi-sports club based in Doha, which is best known for its football club, but also participates in basketball, handball, volleyball, and athletics. The club has won a staggering 61 football titles in total over its short 44-year history, making it one of the most successful domestic clubs in the region.
Even though the FIFA World Cup may have come with the most fanfare, Qatar is no stranger to hosting major international events, having hosted more than 18 world championships for different sports in the last decade alone. It also hosts nine annual sporting events, including the ATP Tennis Tournament Doha, Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, FIM Moto Racing World Championships, and the FEI Equestrian Global Champions Tour, among others in handball, tennis, and athletics. Over the next decade, Qatar will be hosting the FINA World Swimming Championships, the World Boxing Championships, the IHF Handball Championships, the UCI Road Cycling World Championships, the FIG Artistic World Gymnastics Championships, and of course the FIFA World Cup, among others.
In 2012, the President of the Qatar Swimming Association (QSA), Khaleel Al Jabir, announced that Qatar would be hosting the FINA World Swimming Championships, one of the most prestigious events in global swimming. It is set to take place in December 2014, and is sure to delight the local population, especially as His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani is known to be a fan of the event and was instrumental in the country’s bid to host it.
The country is also preparing for the Handball Championships in 2015, with preparations well under way. “Currently, we are preparing the infrastructure for the 2015 IHF World Championships and other requirements are in progress as planned,” HE Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Secretary General & CEO of the Qatar Olympic Committee, told TBY in an interview. In an effort to encourage more people to come and visit the country during this event, Qatar Airways is offering special discount packages for hotels, tickets to the championships, tours of Doha, and desert safaris.
The biggest sporting news to come out of Qatar for a while was its successful bid to host the World Cup in 2022. The country won the bid in 2010 with a 700-page report, edging ahead of Australia, South Korea, Japan, and the US. The amount of money budgeted for the Cup will make it the most expensive sporting event ever, dwarfing Brazil’s $14 billion investment for the 2014 World Cup by some margin, coming in at $200 billion. The Sochi Winter Olympic Games is currently the most expensive sporting event, costing Russia $50 billion. When it comes down to per capita spending, the numbers are even more impressive. The 2022 World Cup will cost the Qatari population $100,000 each— $15,000 more than the average income of Qatar—compared to the Sochi Winter Olympics that cost Russian citizens $350 each, Brazilian citizens $73 each, while the South Africans paid a mere $54 per capita for the 2010 World Cup, which at the time was blasted for overspending during a time of economic crisis. Qatar will spend 1,852 times more than South Africa. However, unlike Brazil and South Africa, Qatar is basically building all of its stadiums from scratch, instead of upgrading existing ones, which most other countries do. The new stadiums will also be fitted with on-pitch air conditioning to allow the players to perform safely in temperatures that can regularly hit 50°c in the summer. The systems, inspired by the airflows of the dhow, should lower the temperature down a more managable temperature of 30 degrees. However, this might not be as needed as first thought, as strong speculation that the event could be moved to the winter to limit the impact of heat on players and spectators.
Shortly after winning the bid for World Cup, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) bought a controlling share in Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) for ‚¬100 million in 2011. This turned out to be pocket change, as the QIA went on to spend four times this amount in its first three seasons, attracting some of the biggest names in football, including David Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Now the club has links with Qatar, it is able to attract more investment from the Country. In December 2012, the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) signed an $800 million deal with PSG to promote the image of Qatar in Europe. The QTA will pay $198 million per season to the club. The QTA was also hoping to become the shirt sponsor in 2013, but Fly Emirates was successful in its ‚¬125 million bid over five seasons to remain the main shirt sponsor. Qatari companies are taking football very seriously as the numbers involved are enormous. Qatar Airways became the shirt sponsor of Barcelona in 2013 with a deal worth just under ‚¬100 million split over three seasons, potentially opening up the company’s logo to 300 million fans worldwide.
BEASTS OF BURDEN
While Qatar has taken up many modern sports, it still has a vested interest in camel racing. Popular all over the Gulf, camel racing has a venerable history in the region and continues to attract the crowds. In a modernizing step, from 2007 it was announced that all camel jockeys would be robotic. Although in recent times, the sport has been overshadowed by horse racing, there is still a packed schedule every year of camel racers across Qatar and the UAE.