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Qatar eyes diversification and identity beyond the World Cup

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Qatar has spent 12 years and more than $200 billion preparing for the World Cup, which kicks off on November 20. What happens when the games end and the tourists leave?

The decision to grant Qatar hosting rights for the World Cup tournament divided opinion from the start. Whatever the merits of holding sport’s biggest jamboree in a desert in November, the die is cast. When Euromoney visited the Gulf state in late October, signs of the looming event were everywhere.

In West Bay and around Msheireb Downtown Doha, a revamped part of the capital full of upscale malls and couture outlets, colossal images of soccer’s brand name superstars – England’s Harry Kane, France’s Kylian Mbappé – cover whole buildings.

Most of the infrastructure, from highways to eight brand-new stadiums, is complete. The Corniche, a seven-kilometre-long strip of promenade bookended by restaurants and five-star hotels, is a hive of activity, with workers frantically laying pavement and planting palm trees.

On November 20, more than a billion people will tune in to watch as 22 men from Qatar and Ecuador kick a ball around a pitch in Lusail, a planned city north of Doha.

Some will be gripped by the game alone. Many others will focus on attendant controversies, from the detention of LGBTQ+ activists to the treatment of migrant workers who laboured to build the infrastructure only to be booted out before the tournament began.

Yet

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Elliot Wilson headshot.jpg
Asia editor and Global Private Banking and Wealth Management editor
Elliot Wilson is Asia editor and Global Private Banking and Wealth Management editor. He joined the magazine in 2020 having been a regular contributor focusing on China and the Indian subcontinent, Russia and Eastern Europe/the CIS. He is based in Hong Kong.