Here’s the thing about Qatar hosting the World Cup in about six weeks: Even if you could ignore the disgusting and egregious human rights abuses that built the infrastructure for it (which you can’t), or if you could ignore the country’s homophobia and sexism as state policy (which you can’t), or the plainly corrupt way they landed in the tournament in the first place (which you can’t), the simple logistics of this tournament are a mess beyond comprehension.
Qatar, land-wise, is smaller than Connecticut. Population-wise, it’s just slightly bigger than Nebraska. So imagine dumping 1.2 million tourists into that kind of space. And while Connecticut is spread out through a bunch of semi-populous areas that no one should ever want to visit (Pepe’s isn’t that good, Yalees), Qatar is basically Doha and sand, at least for the sake of this tournament. Only the Al Bayt Stadium is not in the Doha area. So essentially, everyone will be descending on one city for the entire tournament, trying to get to games and entertain themselves in between doing so. Wherever you live, try and picture 1.2 million additional people in the way and figure out how that might go.
For that reason alone, Qatar should have never been given the tournament. It’s simply not equipped to handle it, no matter how much blood and oil money it can spread around to officials, or how quickly it can build hotels, trains, and stadiums, while not caring how many people die doing so.
In that vein, Reuters today put out a story that Qatar is conscripting some citizens into the country’s military to act as security for the tournament. That includes diplomats that were working abroad. Generally, when this kind of tournament is spread throughout a populous country, you can find more than people already working in the field to do this kind of thing, and local police forces have enough to spare. But again, Qatar is running this basically out of one city, which is why it already had to borrow thousands of cops from Turkey.
And if you don’t think checkpoints and security around a stadium for big soccer games can’t immediately turn into a mess without careful planning, may we present last spring’s Champions League Final.
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This clearly isn’t the only huge issue with the tournament in Qatar. We wonder how much we’ll hear about the monitoring app that every visitor must install on their phone when arriving in the country, which isn’t suspicious at all! Now you have security that’s being called in and trained mere weeks before the tournament, and with Qatar relaxing some of the country’s alcohol laws around stadiums, well, these kinds of scenes aren’t totally implausible. Is a drafted security force with a week’s training or so really ready for something like that if it should come about? Can they get everyone into the stadium in an orderly and safe fashion and get them out of the sun? They failed that test in one stadium’s debut, where the final will be played. It cannot be stressed enough, the tournament is mere weeks away.
Perhaps what Qatar is counting on is that FIFA will declare the tournament a success no matter what happens, as every official has already gotten their heavy briefcase. With networks being based in the country for the tourney, they’re going to be awfully gunshy if they even consider reporting what’s going on on the ground anyway. The shiny facade will be in place. But this is yet another bullet in the case that this could be a total disaster.