It was one of the strangest hosting proposals ever. Air conditioned stadiums. A country with a population roughly the size of Phoenix, Arizona. An emirate with only one major city. Qatar overcame those obstacles as well as strong opposition of the United States and Russia to win FIFA's approval to host the 2022 World Cup.
The shocking announcement affirms FIFA President Sepp Blatter's intent to take the world's biggest sporting event to new places. Speaking after the Qatari delegation thanked the executive committee for their support, Blatter spoke of the novelty of having Russia, announced hosts of the 2018 tournament, and Qatar as World Cup sites. Neither have previously hosted the World Cup.
Qatar, like Russia, faces significant infrastructure issues, though the biggest concern will be environmental. The Qatari delegation spent most of their time leading into today's vote convincing committee members that summer heat on the Arabian Peninsula (where temperatures could reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit), will not be an issue. Air condition stadiums designed to lower the temperature of the play surface were proposed.
While Australia, Japan, and South Korea were also rejected with the Qatar announcement, the United States will be the most disappointed. U.S. Soccer and the proposal it put forth had been seen as the favorites, but a late surge of confidence in the Qatar bid overshadowed the efforts of USSF President Sunil Gulati and former President of the United States Bill Clinton, who carries a high profile in the days before the announcement.
The Russia and Qatar announcements have already led to speculation of FIFA's motives, with England and the United States viewed as the most ready of the 2018 and 2022 bidders. However, as was the case with South Africa's hosting the 2010 tournament, FIFA has again shown a strong commitment to taking soccer to new locations across the globe.