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The true cost of the World Cup

All around the world, people are tuning in to watch the 2022 FIFA World Cup. This year, it’s hosted in Qatar. To be a host city is considered an honor, and to be chosen as one is highly competitive. In fact, Qatar is rumored to have bribed its way into hosting this year. What’s so coveted about hosting the World Cup? It’s thought to boost tourism, foreign trade, and investment. However, the aftermath is not all positive. 

Because it is FIFA’s tournament, the organization does incur some of the cost. The highest cost to FIFA is the prize money, which totals $440 million. Forty-two million dollars goes to the winning team, and $9 million goes to each team that did not emerge from the group stage. FIFA will make $4.7 billion dollars in revenue and pay $1.7 billion in costs, making $3 billion in total profit. Most of the costs, however, fall on Qatar. For reference, Russia spent $11.6 billion on the World Cup, Brazil spent $15 billion, Germany spent $4.6 billion, and South Korea spent $7 billion. Qatar, however, has spent $220 billion. It spent close to $10 billion building seven stadiums. Qatar also spent $36 billion on a brand new metro system, airport, road construction, and over  a hundred hotels. 

The costs don’t stop after the tournament ends. The stadiums that aren’t dismantled and shipped elsewhere will have high costs of operation and maintenance, especially for such a small country. Certainly, these preparations are not solely for the World Cup, as they’re also long-term investments in infrastructure that will contribute to Qatar’s development. 

Additionally, host countries benefit from the flood of tourists that come to watch the tournament. With an estimated 1.3 million visitors, Qatar is set to make $1.56 billion in revenue from hosting. 

However, will Qatar make a profit? It’s not unheard of to lose money hosting the world cup. In 2014, Brazil failed to profit, and the federal government had to provide emergency funds to Rio de Janeiro. Even the United States lost $9 billion from hosting in 1994. Keep in mind these countries spent significantly less than Qatar did. For reference, Qatar’s GDP is predicted to be $221 billion, meaning that they essentially spent an entire year of economic output on hosting this year’s World Cup. Financial analysts have estimated that Qatar’s GDP will rise by 4.1 percent, but will it be enough to offset the gross amount of spending by Qatar? 

Some analysts believe that Qatar’s economy is one of the fittest to host the World Cup. It was historically driven by fishing and pearl hunting. Petroleum was discovered in the late 1930s, transforming Qatar from one of the poorest countries in the world to the second-largest net exporter of natural gas. Even today, it’s enhancing its natural gas capabilities. Additionally, Qatar has low debt and a healthy budget surplus. Because of these factors, according to Shahnoor Rabbani from The Business Standard, hosting the Word Cup “has potential to elevate Qatar as a major player not only within the Middle East but across the globe.”

Even with a stable economy, however, one must also consider the political effects of being a host country. Qatar is, of course, in the spotlight. However, the exposure the country is getting is not all positive. After bribing their way into hosting rights, Qatar hired foreign workers to build stadiums. Under their oppressive kafala labor system, several thousand workers died. Many of those who remained were evicted from their housing to accommodate soccer fans. This negative attention will limit the potential increase in tourism and foreign investment that Qatar hopes to gain from being a host country. 

Additionally, after the World Cup, the remaining stadiums will take up valuable real estate, and hotels will sit empty, negatively affecting Qatar long after the tournament ends. For a beautiful game, soccer has some ugly costs. 


~ Madison Keezer `26

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