The campaign against Qatar’s plans to host the World Cup is racist and Islamophobic, according to the former prime minister of the oil-rich absolute monarchy where Indian workers are treated like serfs and leaving Islam is punishable by death. Maybe worker health and safety is just a Eurocentric construct and there are no objective truths about how many people die on building sites?
Momentum is building against Qatar, with pressure on the corporate sponsors to pull out, and for UEFA to lead a European boycott. The case against Russia is also pretty strong, too, but at least Russia can physically hold the tournament in summer.
One of the main political problems with doing something about it is that these international bodies are easy prey for anti-western feeling and it would be politically tricky to take away the World Cup from a Muslim country and hand it to, say, England or Australia. There is already a theory that this whole thing was started by the Americans to distract attention from the motion to expel Israel; but I guess there’s an anti-Israeli conspiracy theory for literally everything on earth.
But if Qatar can’t host, who can? The obvious compromise would be Turkey, the traditional crossroads between east and west. Turkey has twice bid to host the European Championships, in 2016 and 2020, and once the Olympics, also for 2020, but has so far been unsuccessful.
Turkey has much of the infrastructure in place and a football-mad population. Best of all it’s a lovely place to visit, the Turks are wonderful, friendly people and Istanbul must be the greatest city on earth.
Assuming that the Syrian and Iraq situations has calmed down by 2022, the various corporate sponsors could also try to claw back some disastrous PR by making this the ‘charity games’ and by pledging money towards the rehousing of Syrians and Iraqis, over a million of whom have been generously sheltered by Turkey.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.