Fireworks light up at Lusail Stadium in Doha before the final match between Argentina and France.
After the World Cup earned Qatar both plaudits and censure, the energy-rich Gulf state is now starting a marathon to secure the 2036 Olympics and a place as a pillar of world sport.
Even as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo scored goals and shed tears in Qatar’s multi-billion-dollar stadiums, its sports administrators were booking new victories off the pitch.
The first World Cup in the Middle East, the first in the Arab world and the second in Asia came with huge expectations.
Qatar lived up to the expectations with a memorable tournament. A $220 billion project transformed the Gulf nation with state-of-the-art stadiums.
During the tournament, Qatar was awarded the 2025 world table tennis championships and the opening race of the world endurance championship in 2024, adding to its packed sports calendar. Formula One returns in 2023, and a major renovation of Qatar’s race track went ahead during the World Cup shutdown.
Qatar also stepped in when China withdrew from holding the 2023 Asian Cup football and is to stage the world swimming championships in 2024.
Its beIn Sports channel with its growing viewership and rights portfolio only adds to Qatar’s sports muscle. Hosting events is “a very powerful game-changing tool,” said Michael Payne, a former head of marketing for the International Olympic Committee.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino repeatedly said Qatar was hosting the “best ever” World Cup, and other federations have also welcomed Qatar’s largesse. An official with the International Table Tennis Federation said “Qatar stepped in to help organise events when COVID-19 devastated the calendar, and its facilities are all in place.”
Qatar won an overwhelming majority in the ITTF vote against Spain for the 2025 championships. The 2036 Olympics — which will not be awarded before 2025 — is the next big prize. The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani is an IOC member and Qatar has already bid for the 2016, 2020 and 2032 Games.
Some analysts say its World Cup record will count against Qatar in the Olympic bid.