Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

No Expense Is Spared as Qatar Take on the Big Boys of World Sport

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

No Expense Is Spared as Qatar Take on the Big Boys of World Sport

Article excerpt

Byline: Neil Cook Managing editor of Gulf Times

DEDICATED England fans and FIFA officials will have the chance to assess Qatar's ambitious claims to stage the 2022 World Cup on Saturday.

Since hosting a successful Asian Games in 2006 the tiny peninsula nestled in the Arabian Gulf has adopted a simple approach to hosting international sporting events: bid, bid and bid again.

The Olympic Games and football's showpiece will be staged in the Middle East at some stage and Qatar wants to be in pole position.

The country has strong links to Brazil -- Pele is backing their World Cup campaign -- and the South Americans will profit handsomely from Saturday's clash in Qatar. Brazil were England's first opponents at the new Wembley in June 2007 and were promised a rematch at a venue of their choice as part of the original deal.

For many years Dubai, with its impressive purposebuilt stadium, has been a stop on the international rugby sevens tour, while neighbouring Abu Dhabi upstaged Bahrain 11 days ago when its Yas Marina circuit won rave reviews for its maiden Formula One Grand Prix.

There is a certain Field of Dreams "build it and they will come" attitude pervading in the Gulf and Qatar is happy to participate in the construction frenzy. Saturday's match will take place at Khalifa Stadium, a top-class facility renovated in 2006 with a 50,000 capacity. It is adjacent to the state-ofthe-art Aspire sports academy, which has won plaudits from Pele and a host of Premier League clubs.

As the leading exporter of liquefied natural gas with the fastest growing economy in the world Qatar is rolling in cash, some of which has been used to invest in the likes of Sainsbury's, Barclays, Chelsea Barracks and most recently the US embassy in London.

Visitors will notice a confident swagger among the local Qatari population but there are few signs of in-your-face opulence. The population of about 1.5 million comprises a potpourri of nationalities with the majority coming from the Asian subcontinent. …

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