Middle East

The Legacy of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – Can We Have a Score Now?

Authors: Dr. Christos Anagnostopoulos and Dr. Kamilla Swart*

Now that the final whistle of the FIFA World Cup 2022 has been blown, we can confidently state that Qatar has not only demonstrated its capability as a competent host but has also showcased Arab hospitality and its rich culture and traditions. The country has also used the occasion to address Islamophobia on a large scale to demonstrate to the international community that it is a modern, progressive nation with a rich Islamic culture and heritage. So now that the event is over, discussions about its legacy can start. Right?

Understanding the concept of ‘legacy’

The notion of legacy has received increasing attention from governments and sports governing bodies amid escalating public scrutiny and contestation of the costs and benefits associated with sporting events. This has been no different for Qatar, with legacy being at the forefront of the FIFA World Cup 2022 and aligned with the National Vision 2030.

The infrastructure development that has taken place, whether in the form of enhanced transportation and mobility services or new sports and recreation facilities, will potentially strengthen Qatar’s positioning not only as a globally competitive sports tourism destination but also by enhancing the quality of life for residents. Add to this the fact that environmental enhancements have been central to Qatar’s World Cup, with FIFA and Qatar issuing a joint Sustainability Strategy for the first time, based on five sustainability commitments aimed at providing innovative environmental solutions to address current environmental challenges. We have seen this in different areas, such as in the innovative cooling technologies for the stadiums.

The World Cup has also been associated with other often overshadowed objectives relating to increasing opportunities for women and girls in sport and for persons with disabilities. There are examples of intangible structural changes that will promote inclusivity in sport. Two illustrative cases are the value co-creation from stakeholders such as Generation Amazing and Qatar Foundation (QF), which have partnered to offer coaching to girls and women at Oxygen Park, or QF’s Ability-Friendly Program, which has trained coaches to further develop football in Qatar. While it is true that the ‘ball has started rolling’, the impact, and ultimately the legacy, of all these initiatives remains to be seen.

In other words, we should be mindful of how the term ‘legacy’ is used. In our view, a clear distinction should be made between outputs, outcomes, impact, and then legacy, and this goes beyond mere semantics.

Proposing a new understanding of ‘legacy’

The state-of-the-art football stadiums, brand new (driver-free) Doha Metro, and impressive Hamad International Airport – which aspires to be the main transit point connecting the west with the east, together with the necessary road infrastructure, should all be seen as the immediate outputs of hosting the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. So, if the metro system is considered an output of the event, the outcome is the number of people that are using it during the event. Impact, in turn, will be how many residents in Qatar alter the way they move around the city of Doha, Lusail, and other areas post-event. Legacy is then understood in terms of the changes in attitudes and behavior.

Also consider this: if an outcome of the event relates to introducing policies and changes to laws to better address working labor conditions, then the impact may well be happier employees and an increased willingness of foreign firms to associate themselves with Qatar’s wider business ecosystem.

Let’s not forget the 20,000-plus volunteers who made themselves available to support the implementation of the FIFA World Cup. Again, this number is an output of hosting this mega sporting event in Qatar. The outcome will be the answer to a question such as: ‘How many of these volunteers – who either had no job or were looking for a better one – got a (new) job? The impact then will be the answer to a question such as: ‘How many of them kept their job and became productive members of society?’ Therefore, when talking about legacy, we refer to the consequences of structural changes that affect people at both a personal and social level, such as hard and soft skills development, knowledge, and networks.

What we have seen, for example, is that for several years prior to the event, managers were transferring explicit knowledge – at any operational level and dimension – but they were also transferring tacit knowledge during the event. Tacit knowledge is less technical and more concerned with experiential and cognitive elements. What research has told us is that tacit knowledge is rarely converted into explicit knowledge in the post-event phase. In other words, what we call ‘organizational memory’ is not used. Organizational memory is the outcome of an organization’s learning process. Building on this type of knowledge will be one of the legacies of the event in question. Still, this build-up takes time.

Post-World Cup

One can also confidently argue that Qatar’s successful hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup boosts its track record of hosting major international sporting events, with the 2006 Asian Games viewed as having set the country on its trajectory of establishing itself as a regional and international sports hub. With the upcoming 2023 AFC Asian Cup, 2024 FINA World Swimming Championships, a Formula 1 race each year for the next 10 years, and the 2030 Asian Games, the country will undoubtedly increase its resolve to become the first Arab and Muslim country in the Middle East to ever host the Olympic Games.

In addition to attracting major events on the field, Qatar is also attracting sports business (that is, off-field) events such as the World Association of Sport Management (WASM) Congress, which will be co-hosted by Hamad Bin Khalifa University and Qatar University from March 5–8, 2023. Both institutions have leveraged the opportunity to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup to offer sport-management-related research to help build local capacity in the sport industry in Qatar, and the region more broadly. Still, how these research-based discussions over the three-day conference translate to shaping the next generation of sport administrators who will lead the national (and regional) sport agendas remains to be seen.

Against all this, we shall not forget that the careful use of terms (be it output, outcome, impact or legacy) is not a mere semantic exercise. Rather, it is an important undertaking because the better we measure the right parts of the process, the better the strategies we employ to achieve the related sustainable goals.

* Dr. Kamilla Swart, a contributing author to the book, is an Associate Professor and Director of the Sport and Entertainment Management (MSEM) program at CSE, HBKU.

Dr. Christos Anagnostopoulos

Dr. Christos Anagnostopoulos is Assistant Professor in Sport Management at the College of Science and Engineering, at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), Qatar, and the UNESCO Co-Chair holder and Director of the Chair on Governance & Social Responsibility in Sport at UCLan, Cyprus.

Recent Posts

In Topsy-Turvy World

In our time now, the sheer complexity of the world political matrix, its fluidity of…

57 mins ago

The Need for the Next SAARC Summit

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) came into existence on the 8th of…

2 hours ago

Erdogan’s Victory: Five Challenges He May Face in His Third Term

Erdogan, as Turkey's leader, must negotiate a complicated web of local and foreign challenges while…

4 hours ago

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Election Victory and Its Impact on the Region

On May 28, 2023, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan emerged victorious in the second round of the…

9 hours ago

Scientists remain vigilant for new Covid-19 variants while improving the ability to predict complications

Regular life may have resumed for most people, but the pandemic rumbles on as researchers…

13 hours ago

“Global Times”: China-Russia cooperation is broader than what US-led West can envision

On the afternoon of May 24, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Prime Minister of…

14 hours ago