I recently had the good fortune to attend a reception hosted by the Seattle Trade Development Alliance and a local law firm for a delegation from Qatar. That delegation included the Secretary-General of the Supreme Committee in charge of Qatar's massive infrastructure improvements in order to host the world during the 2022 FIFA World Cup. In listening to and chatting with the members of the delegation you could not help getting excited for what they are doing.
The passion with which they spoke about the hundreds of billions of dollars being spent are not just focused on stadiums, but include things like a remodeled airport, expanding water port, huge improvements to the highway system, a subway system and light rail. The whole of the conversations is about how this World Cup is not about the World Cup, but about legacy. It is about a different future not just for Qatar, not just for the Middle East, but the World.
Despite a voice sore from a series of stops on their visit in LA, Portland and Seattle the Secretary-General spoke with fire, excitement and humor. He did this in his non-native tongue and spoke about how the final bid presentation was in four languages - French, English, Spanish and Arabic.
He explained that the cooling technologies are being developed, in fact the first of the Fan Zones will be setup for Qataris to watch the 2014 World Cup. That Fan Zone will be open air, cooled with zero emission energy sources and have massive screens for the fans to enjoy the games in Brazil from afar. Similar technologies will be used for the stadiums.
That technology will be exported to the other nations in the world that struggle with outdoor activities due to their climates. The stadiums will also be exported. They are much larger than Qatar needs and so the capacity beyond about 25,000 will be able to be taken down and shipped around the world to nations that need modern stadiums. Unlike traditional European football stadiums they will not be mere places to watch games, but will be part of the community with shops, restaurants, hotels, meeting space and other needs of the area. The rents will be set to help entrepreneurs succeed and create opportunity for the massive oncoming workforce from throughout the Middle East.
The committee is made up of men and women from around the region and the globe. They looked everywhere for talent and borrowed from ideas of past World Cups and Olympics, but still with their own Qatari flavor. Those flavors are seeded with people from Africa, South America, Europe, Asia and of course the United States.
Every aspect of the project is a way to improve the lives of Qataris, the Arab world and ideally the whole of Earth. It is soaked in ambition, in passion. Time is short to develop these technologies, to build not just modern infrastructure, but the infrastructure of the future.
There is an appeal to massive projects and new ideas. Who wouldn't want to see nine new stadiums built out of the dreams of Clarke, Roddenberry and Asimov? Who wouldn't like to see a declaration that many of the myths of the Arab World ignore the depth of the peoples?
There are certainly plenty of controversies surrounding the bid, but in speaking with the leadership behind it you can't help but see the appeal of the Big Idea.