Thursday, December 16, 2010

Greetings from Qatar, complete with air conditioning as big as all outdoors

A lot can happen in twelve years.

Qatar could become an easy going, laissez le bons temps rouler kind of place. You know, everyone stumbling around from joint to joint, sucking down their open- carry hurricanes and piƱa coladas from plastic souvenir cups. Raunchy tee-shirts, funny hats, tawdry knick knacks for sale on every corner. Guys and gals holding hands and snogging.  Guys and guys holding hands and snogging. Gals and gals holding hands and snogging. Maybe even a place where a Jewish soccer fan or soccer player might actually feel comfortable, if not actually feel welcome. Maybe even a place that has more than one packy (liquor store) to serve its entire population.

A place where folks who like to carry on, drink in public, drink in private, visit strip clubs and even a working girl or two, and generally let their hair down and their “it” all hang out  – i.e., folks who fit the profile of some non-zero proportion of World Cup holidayers - can have them some fun. And watch them some futbol.

But there probably ain’t nothing going to be happening to Qatar weather that’s going to make it any cooler in summer than it is now.  In fact, a betting person who’d been keeping an eye on climate change might even figure that Qatar’s 120 degree summers might even heat up a bit by 2022.

Which is when Qatar hosts the World Cup, having beaten out the United States, Australia, South Korea, and Japan – all, arguably, places where the fun (and tolerance) quotient is a tad bit higher than it is in Qatar – for the honor of hosting these games.

First, I’d like to give a bit of unsolicited advice to everyone who thinks it’s a good idea for the U.S. to mount colossal bids to host events like the Olympics and the World Cup. Fuhgeddaboudit!

Without sounding like a woe-is-me, wound-licking, hyper-nationalist here, it strikes me that a lot of good money gets expended on these “pick me” efforts, only to find that there are political reasons why “we” don’t get chosen.

Now, while these big sporting events are mostly big corporate events, it’s probably not a bad idea to host them in many different countries and regions, rather than resorting to same-old, same-old. South Africa, by all accounts, did an admirable job hosting the first World Cup held on that continent.  And it may not be a bad idea to hold it in a Muslim nation like Qatar, either, if only to make the point that it’s a small, narrow world, rather than a big, wide one, and that we’re all in it together.

So, with respect to sharing the spotlight, etc. Yay!

Still, since these mega-athletic spectaculars are largely corporate in nature, and since, despite our recessionary woes the U.S. still hasn’t fully renounced its ‘hey, big spender’ identity, these mega-athletic spectaculars still count on some U.S. spend. Maybe if they’re going to keep snubbing us, we should think about snubbing them.

Let’s see if our spending and interest drops off enough that the complete pure of heart, unbribe-able, sweetness and light committees who award the franchise to the mega-athletic spectaculars rethink whether it makes some sense to occasional throw the good old U.S. of A. a bone, without our having to sit up and beg for it (and then mooch home with our tail between our legs when the pull the bone away from us).

Patriotic, jingoistic aside aside, who’s going to want to spend the summer in Doha, even if Qatar loosens up between now and 2012?

Yes, I understand that the Qataris are planning on air-conditioning the outdoor stadiums they’re going to be building for the World Cup. (Which reminds me of my mother nagging us if we left a door open in cold weather: “What are you trying to do, heat the whole outdoors?”)

But talk about a colossal waste of energy.

Sure, they have oil to burn, but wouldn’t holding the World Cup in a place where you don’t have the air-condition the outside make more sense?  Or holding it at a time of year when it’s not 120 degrees out?

Forget the anti-gay laws, the attitude toward Jews, the constraints on women.  Forget that one, measly liquor store.

The weather alone is going to make Qatar a dubious draw for fans, and there just aren’t enough Qataris to fill the stands.

I’ve been in the bleachers of Fenway Park during a humid, 90 degree afternoon game.  Despite sucking down (or pouring over my head) a half dozen bottles of Poland Springs, I had to leave by the fifth inning to avoid being taken out on a stretcher.  Air conditioning sure would have been nice, and I’m sure that by 2022 the Qataris will have figured something out. Still, they can’t outdoor air-condition the entire country, can they?  Sounds like your tourist choices will be the air conditioned outdoor stadium or an air conditioned indoor mall or hotel.

Doesn’t sound like much fun to me. (Maybe the hotel rooms will at least have mini-bars.)

FIFA, the soccer federation, must have weighed their interest in expanding further into the Muslim world, vs. alienating the hordes of fans who like to do the quadrennial trek to wherever the World Cup’s being held, and have a good time while they’re there. It’ll be interesting to see whether this turns out to have been a shrewd financial move for them or not.

But who knows? An awful lot can happen in 12 years.

No comments: