Empty seats greet top athletes
Daily Express (U.K.)
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is “an accident waiting to happen,” said Neil Squires. For a preview of what to expect, let’s review the World Athletics Championships that Qatar finished hosting this week. Runners suffered from the appalling heat and suffocating humidity. With daytime temperatures averaging 100 degrees, the marathoners had to race at midnight. Indoor events were lackluster, because the stadiums were nearly empty. When the fastest woman in the world, Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, took her victory lap after winning gold in the 100-meter sprint, she was “waving to a nonexistent crowd.” Qatar is home to 2.6 million people, but few of them are avid sports fans. Soccer’s governing body, FIFA, is hoping that the 2022 World Cup “will be a regional tournament,” with fans from across the Middle East filling the bleachers. But since Qatar is “being frozen out by its neighbors for pursuing a more open relationship with Iran,” a large influx of regional tourists is unlikely. And forget the European fans—they won’t flock to a country where alcohol carries a 100 percent tax. Tiny but absurdly rich Qatar wants “the kudos of staging the world’s biggest football tournament.” This vanity project will “blow up in their faces”—and ruin the experience for the players.