You have to speculate to accumulate. It’s one of the business world’s greatest clichés or truisms, depending on which side of the fence you sit. Qatar and FIFA will both be hoping that in the case of the 2022 World Cup, that is certainly the case. Putting on a tournament of any magnitude comes with a huge expense. When that tournament is the Olympics, or as in this case the World Cup, then that expense begins to resemble that of a small nation’s GDP.
There is an enormous plus side of course. It puts the country and the sport in the spotlight like nothing else can. From a footballing perspective, this World Cup will introduce millions of people to teams, players, tournament football, and even the sport itself. It will enable fans, through ever-improving technology, to discover new ways to follow and interact with what is going on. For example, people will be searching how to bet on Football World Championships 2022 who have never placed a bet on a sporting event before in their lives. From the host nation’s point of view the rewards are even greater.
For over a month, the world’s eyes will be focused on their corner of the planet. Hundreds of thousands of fans will flood into their country, many of whom will never have travelled there before. It is not just the money they spend, but the experiences that they have and then share. On top of that there will be thousands of journalists, all fighting for the best backdrops for their studios and pieces to camera. You could describe it as tens of thousands of hours of free advertising. Apart from of course, it is far from free. It has cost a fortune.
The Olympics and the World Cup unsurprisingly are the most expensive events staged. The cost of a World Cup can be massively reduced, or at least kept in check, if the stadiums – you need eight to hold the tournament – are, in the main, already in place. The same is true for the Olympics, but there are of course vastly more venues required, even though many will be a lot smaller.
To date, the most expensive World Cup ever staged was that held in Brazil in 2014, which cost US$15 billion. Second was the Russian tournament four years later (US$11. Billion). The ones held in Germany, France and the United States cost US$4.3 billion, US$2.3 billion and US$0.5 billion respectively, demonstrating the point about existing infrastructure and stadia.
Turning our attention to the Olympic Games, the costs soar. At US$51 billion, the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics were the most expensive event ever held. The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics came in at US$44 billion, with all others in the low teens or less.
So how does the Qatar World cup compare, taking those two as a benchmark? The estimated cost for the event is a whopping US$200 billion, with many putting the figure closer to US$220 billion. Four times the most expensive event ever staged. Why is that?
The Middle East nation has had to build everything from scratch. It now has eight purpose-built, state-of-the-art stadiums. Admittedly stunning, and even equipped with air conditioning, both for the fans and the players on the pitch, they will be used a handful of times and then the tournament will end. What will become of them then? One has been designed to be taken down afterwards, but in a country with no domestic league to speak of, the word on every outsider’s lips is the one always spouted before putting on such events: legacy.
Sport and money have gone hand in hand for decades, and any predictions on the outcome and long-term effects, benefits and harm this tournament will have on both the sport and Qatar are purely speculation. In the meantime I guess, we should just enjoy the show.