Saturday, November 17, 2012

Qatar 2022: A form of cultural resistance?

Well, I apologize in advance if the title is misleading, so let me clarify what I actually mean by the title itself. By cultural resistance, I intend cultural resistance to the stagnant situation of the Middle-East; where no major world sporting event has taken place in the last few decades (with the exception of the Doha Asian Games 2006). In this post, I'm going to analyze the move to organize the FIFA World Cup in 2022 in Qatar using the various means of cultural resistance.

Looking at the history of middle-eastern countries, particularly that of GCC countries, one can observe that there haven't been any major world sporting events in the past. Qatar has been the front runner when it comes to bidding for the organization of such events. The Doha Asian Games in 2006 was perhaps the largest sporting event organized in the GCC till date. Why has there been a lack of such events in the past in this region? Maybe it's just that the countries were not ready for it from the infrastructure point of view. Or maybe, the countries weren't ready for it culturally?

In terms of infrastructure, there are a few cities that are equipped with great facilities. For instance, Dubai has always been the leading city when it comes to the development of buildings and stadiums etc.

                                          File photo of Dubai City in 2011

 Saudi Arabia has some of the largest football stadiums in the area and spends huge amounts yearly on their local club leagues. In my view, it's always been the cultural aspect. There have always been doubts about the strong cultural exchange that happens in such world class events and the locals were worried about the morals and values that exist in the traditional Islamic society in the GCC. In the past, we have seen various Football world cups being held around the globe. It is a huge spectacle that consists of not just Football, but also a lot of forms of entertainment, recreation and travelling are associated with it.

Qatar, I believe is attempting to resist to this cultural resistance that all other neighboring countries put up. It takes a lot of courage and ambition to bid to organize a FIFA World Cup and Qatar has done a great job by  accomplishing this. As we discussed earlier this week in the Duncombe reading, cultural resistance has 4 major means: Content, Form, Interpretation and Activity.

In terms of content, Qatar's bidding committee spent a lot of time and money focusing on the importance of organizing the event. The various presentations that were organized can be seen as the content of this cultural resistance. Along with it, the various proposals, documents etc. can all be categorized as the content.

Qatar 2022 Bid CEO, Hassan Al-Thawadi delivering a keynote at an event

 In terms of form, the medium of communication is really important to note. The various advertisement campaigns and television ads etc. are examples of forms of cultural resistance to the otherwise bland and to some extent conservative culture. Interpretation is where all the controversy kicks in. Different people all over the world interpret signs and symbols differently. Some people were really worried about the associated culture shock in the form of excessive alcohol consumption during the world cup and indecent dressing styles.

                              Sweden's soccer fans drink beer and sing at the Euro 2012 fan zone in Kiev
Sweden's soccer fans drink beer and sing at the Euro 2012 fan zone in Kiev

Others were concerned about how Qatar's values would be overshadowed by the western styles and values. However, it is through their activities that the bidding committee was able to successfully manage kinds of views on this issue. The bidding committee ensured the citizens that this growth would be really beneficial and that the event would be organized keeping in mind the cultural preferences of Qatar as well. From a sociological perspective, this balance between cultural preferences of the locals and the visitors is what Qatar will have to work on in the coming years.

We also touched on the importance of politics in culture and it's important to note here that the Bid for the 2022 World Cup was supported strongly by the political heads of the state.


The final presentations were attended by the Emir of Qatar, His Highness Shiekh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani and we also witnessed the presentation being delivered by Her Highness Shiekha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Misned.

The below video shows the celebrations that erupted at Carnegie Mellon University's Qatar campus after the announcement was made.


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