Qatar Sees $20 Billion Bump to Economy From Soccer World Cup

The Khalifa international stadium stands illuminated at night on the city skyline in Doha, Qatar. (Photographer: Gabriela Maj/Bloomberg)

Qatar Sees $20 Billion Bump to Economy From Soccer World Cup

Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics may be a financial flop, but Qatar, host to one of the next big global sporting events since the start of the pandemic, expects its tournament late next year to provide an economic boost.

“We anticipate the contribution to the economy essentially would be around about $20 billion,” said Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary-General of the Committee for Delivery and Legacy that’s building the infrastructure behind the 2022 World Cup. The sum is equivalent to about 11% of the country’s gross domestic product in 2019.

The analysis is the result of “a very high-level study,” he said, adding that more detailed projections won’t be known until after the event takes place in November and December of 2022. However, the construction and tourism industries are expected to be top beneficiaries, Al Thawadi said in an interview that will air in full during next week’s Qatar Economic Forum.

Qatar is trying to use the tournament to showcase its rapid expansion from a small pearl-diving enclave to Gulf metropolis and transit hub. Stadium construction accounts for a small fraction of the infrastructure spending that it’s undertaking ahead of the event; other projects include a metro system, an airport expansion, and the construction of a new city. Bloomberg Intelligence pegs the total value of all these building plans at $300 billion.

The Qatar Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Investment Promotion Agency Qatar and Media City Qatar are underwriters of the Qatar Economic Forum, Powered by Bloomberg.

Al Thawadi, who’s been involved since the effort to secure hosting rights almost a decade ago, said the World Cup is “meant to serve as an engine to push forward and accelerate a lot of the initiatives that the government has already committed to, already had planned, whether that’s in terms of urban development or economic diversification.”

Qatar has faced a barrage of criticism about its plan to host the world’s preeminent soccer tournament, not only around allegations of human rights abuses but also concerns that matches will be poorly attended and fans flying in won’t have much fun. In Qatar’s conservative Muslim culture, women and men wear clothing that covers their shoulders and knees in most public places and alcohol is served only at high-end hotels, where modesty standards mostly aren’t enforced.

Modesty, Decorum

“When people visit they always take into consideration people’s cultures and norms,” he said of host countries for the World Cup. Decisions to allow attire that violates dress codes, like tank tops and shorts, in commercial venues will be left to private business owners, he said, and alcohol will be available in designated areas like fan zones.

Al Thawadi also suggested the government is exploring options for how to manage more serious violations of modesty and decorum, like public drunkenness and indecency, to avoid the local court system. “There’s a plan put in place and this is obviously a mandate within a certain section of the government that’s looking into this,” he said.

With Tokyo barring foreigners from the Summer Olympics in July and uncertainty around travel policies for China’s Winter Olympics, the novelty of a global event that could draw as many as 1.5 million people could be its own attraction.

“We will be hosting a safe event, and we’re optimistic that it will be the first major tournament where everybody who wants to attend will be able to attend” since the start of the pandemic, Al Thawadi said.

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