The World Cup: Turning Challenges to Opportunities in the Middle East

In November, Qatar will be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup as the tiny Gulf state prepares to welcome more than a million-soccer fans. According to Qatar’s Central Bank, the government expects its gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by 3.5 percent in 2022 from the world cup. But there is one problem, many of them can’t or won’t stay there.

However, even though Qatar’s economy will most certainly benefit from the FIFA World Cup, they are facing significant issues particularly hotel shortages and accommodation of an estimated 1.5 million visitors expected to attend the games. Additionally, Qatar’s low tolerance for alcohol and partying in the conservating Muslim nation means that many fans will base themselves in neighboring countries for the monthlong tournament. Since Qatar can only accommodate 130,000 people, its neighboring countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman, are already preparing to host visitors during the event.

Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has this month implemented a multi-entry visit visa for FIFA World Cup fans possessing a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Hayya Card. In context, the Hayya Card is mandatory, as it is one of the most significant credentials for fans to enter Qatar and attend prestigious sporting events in stadiums. These visas that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s new policy will allow fans a 60-day stay in Saudi beginning ten days before the tournament kicks off.

Furthermore, other countries in the Arab region, such as Kuwait, Oman, and Jordan, can also adopt what Saudi Arabia has recently implemented to maximize the region’s probability of accommodating the influx of tourists from across the globe. Indeed, Qatar will not only host a significant event, but due to the accommodation-related challenges that the country is currently facing, it opens various opportunities for neighboring countries to gain economically and introduce or clarify cultural misconceptions. Match-day flights from major Middle Eastern cities will shuttle spectators to games, which will benefit airlines, hotels, and hospitality venues in the region.

Many people especially people from Western countries are skeptical about the 2022 FIFA World Cup’s venue in Qatar due to the common misconception that the Arab region is not safe for visiting fans. More specifically, many people are concerned about the political instability in the region, corruption scandals, human rights violations, and Qatar’s alcohol ban. Regardless, biased misjudgments about the Middle East negatively affect the region’s cultural identity.

Nonetheless, the FIFA World Cup in Qatar will provide an opportunity for the Middle East not just to showcase its prowess in hosting such massive events but also to reveal its true cultural identity to the millions of tourists expected to visit the region, which could help shatter such misconceptions.

Indeed, sports is one of the most effective tools in introducing a particular country’s culture and forging diplomatic ties among the international community. Even though sports enable competition, their values fueled with mutual respect are vital factors that help promote peace worldwide as it opens opportunities for countries to convey and communicate with one another. With the way the world has evolved, especially with the increasing polarization, sports and culture play a huge role in diplomacy as it offers world leaders and diplomats across the globe to engage in discussions while watching sporting events. It is why the FIFA World Cup, aside from the Olympics, is an integral part of keeping the peace, promoting culture, and promoting economic opportunities, among participating countries.

Image Credit: Ambitious Creative Co. – Rick Barrett on Unsplash

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