CEO of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Nasser Al Khater stated that the future of sports is full of challenges in light of the strong competition among different sports for global prominence and becoming more accessible, especially that alongside the entertainment industries, the sports industry compete to attract fans.
During Qatar Economic Forum's second day, in response to a question by Head of the Middle East and North Africa at Bloomberg Stuart Livingstone-Wallace, Al Khater said that the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 was a platform for dialogue and discussion on many global issues, with Middle Easter issues at the forefront.
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 CEO said that he would like to use this occasion to offer a glance about FIFA World Cup 26: the US, where the fastest growing sport at the moment is football and is competing with padel.
Al Khater added that FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 was the first global sporting event to be organized after the Covid-19 pandemic, which was good for Qatar as everyone was eager to watch the tournament. He indicated that the number of national teams competing in the FIFA World Cup has risen from 32 teams to 48, something that poses a challenge to major international tournaments' host countries. Al Khater added that the United States can host 48 teams, holding the tournament in several of its cities. However, for smaller countries, this will make things more difficult, which is one of the most important challenges.
Regarding the future of sports, Al Khater drew attention to the growing interest in other sports in different parts of the world, such as the American Basketball Championship and the American Football League, which are examples of how a sport which is not popular or played except in a single country can get globalized and popularized.
With regard to the concept of soft power, Al Khater explained that a host country would be able to use a global event in service of its political, social, and/or economic agendas depending on the host country's objectives, its size, and its historical location.
He elaborated that back in 2009, Qatar was in a strong position, having a lot to offer, with so many parties surprised at Qatar's winning of the World Cup bid. He added that as a result, Qatar started to put in place plans to accelerate the process of progress in order to host it successfully, which means a lot of work to be done both in terms of building infrastructure, diversifying the economy, and working on a sustainable future in regards to the climate and society, focusing on how to make the World Cup hosting serve Qatar's vision.
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 CEO added that despite the attacks Qatar was subjected to over the course of 10 years under the pretext of the migrant workers' welfare and the like, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 in fact accelerated social change and economic diversification not only in Qatar, but in regional countries as well, given how the tournament shed light on the region's issues and reflecting the region's true image.
Regarding his advice to the 2026 FIFA World Cup hosts, Al Khater stressed the importance of identifying the purpose behind the hosting, explaining that for the State of Qatar the purpose was to become a center for tourism, adding that the tournament ended up being a wonderful promotional opportunity for the country. Al Khater said that Qatar's goals were clear from the onset, with the most prominent goal being developing infrastructure. He said that now, 10 years later, Qatar has a new airport, an expanded sea port, hundreds of kilometers of highways, a metro system, and more to offer tourists. Al Khater added that because Qatar wanted to create an environmentally sustainable tournament, along with meeting the country's commitments, Qatar now successfully generates 800 megawatts of solar energy.
On the challenges faced by the State of Qatar, Al Khater mentioned Qatar's small size, especially that it was expected to receive anywhere between 1.2 to 1.5 million fans, with the other challenge being the suitable hosting dates of the tournament, yet he continued that Qatar succeeded in hosting 1.28 million fans. He added that it was known that there was a need for 98000 rooms to be able to accommodate this number, with Qatar only having 36000 of them when it won the bid, therefore Qatar worked on finding a balance between hotel rooms, residential apartments, and other forms of accommodation that were built to serve the tourism sector, which now can be used for tourism purposes.
The session discussed the impact of integrating technologies with the sports industries and its impact on fan engagement, in addition to future revenue methods, electronic games, among others. (QNA)