Commentary: Qatar’s frantic countdown to a World Cup full of controversy

During that trip, I was struck by the scale of infrastructural development that has taken place since I was last in Qatar before the pandemic. The city seemed a lot quieter than before, which a taxi driver told me was because local people have been instructed to either leave the country or stay away from the capital as final preparations take place.

In some places, roads were still unfinished, as were several areas where football fans are expected to congregate. Among some migrant workers I spoke to, issues remained of long working hours and low pay. But both they and others talked, almost without exception, of their excitement about the tournament.

That many of them will be unable to afford match tickets will not concern the Qatari authorities. Its 12 years of planning for the World Cup have been about nation-building ambitions, projecting soft power and changing international perceptions.

As it races ahead with final preparations, there is not long to go before the Doha government decides whether its massive gamble has paid off.

Simon Chadwick is Professor of Sport and Geopolitical Economy, Skema Business School in Paris. This commentary first appeared on The Conversation.

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