The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is set to become the most expensive tournament in the history of the competition after the host country prepared for the event by spending more than 16 times the amount invested by previous host Russia.
Back in December 2010, former FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced that Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup, sparking wild celebrations on the streets of Doha.
Over the next 12 years, Qatar embarked on the largest infrastructure project in World Cup history to ensure stadiums, transport links, airports and accommodation are ready in time for the big kick-off.
With an estimated one million visitors coming to Qatar to see the 2022 World Cup, there is much debate and much controversy about the cost of the tournament’s infrastructure.
More: Qatar’s World Cup stadiums for the 2022 tournament — Name, location, cost and size
What did Qatar pay to host the World Cup?
Qatar has reportedly spent $229 billion on World Cup infrastructure, although the official World Cup team has not confirmed that number.
The country’s finance ministers admitted spending $500 million a week on the infrastructure project for years, but the highest figure confirmed by a Qatari official was $200 billion, according to Russian news agency Tass.
Attempts to compile an accurate estimate of the total cost of the World Cup have been hampered by the differing accounts of the cost of infrastructure elements such as stadiums, hotels and transport links over the past 12 years.
The TASS report put the cost of the World Cup’s eight stadiums at $6.5 billion, according to Fatma Al Nuaimi, executive director of communications at the Supreme Committee for World Cup Conduct and Legacy.
Earlier, the committee’s general secretary, Hassan Al Thawadi, had estimated the cost of the stadiums at $8 billion to $10 billion when asked at the Chatham House Policy Institute in London in 2016.
What did Qatar spend money on?
The total expenses paid by Qatar are staggering, but figuring out exactly what the money was spent on isn’t an exact science.
Cooling systems in all but one of the eight stadiums used at the World Cup are said to have increased construction costs dramatically as designers introduced technology that would keep players, fans and the World Cup pitches at a reasonable temperature.
The turf for the World Cup pitches has been grown in specialist nurseries using imported grass seed and needs to be kept cool and well watered to remain in good condition for football in Qatar’s dry climate.
In addition to the money spent on building or renovating the eight World Cup stadiums, huge sums were also spent on accommodation, including private islands, villas, apartments and hotels.
In Doha alone, more than $15 billion has been spent on an accommodation complex called The Pearl, while $36 billion has been spent on the Doha Metro.
Elsewhere, an entire city was built around Lusail Stadium. Lusail City will include 22 hotels and enough housing for 200,000 residents, as well as a theme park, two marinas and two golf courses.
Cost of the stadiums of the 2022 World Cup
The construction of eight stadiums capable of hosting World Cup games has drawn much attention to Qatar’s infrastructure preparations.
Here are the reported costs of venues set to host 64 World Cup matches in November and December, according to UK Sky News:
|Al Bayt||Al Khor||$847 million|
|Lusail||city of Lusail||$767 million|
|educational city||Al Rayyan||700 million dollars|
|Al Janoub||Al Wakrah||$587 million|
|Ahmad bin Ali||Al Rayyan||$360 million|
|Al Thumama||doha||$342.5 million|
|Khalifa International||doha||$280 million*|
|Stadium 974||doha||cost unknown|
* sanitation costs
Is this the most expensive World Cup in history?
According to Front Office Sports, South Africa reportedly spent US$3.6 billion on the 2010 World Cup, successfully spending less on infrastructure than previous hosts Germany (US$4.3 billion in 2006) plus Japan and South Korea ($7 billion in 2002).
The stadiums and other infrastructure projects of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil reportedly cost $15 billion, while $11.6 billion was spent on the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
None of these figures even come close to the estimated cost of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which is undoubtedly the most expensive World Cup in history.
The tournament has had both human and financial costs.
More: How many workers have died building World Cup stadiums in Qatar?
Why the Qatar 2022 World Cup is controversial
Huge numbers of migrant workers were recruited to build the World Cup infrastructure, with hundreds of thousands of workers arriving from countries such as India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Many of these workers reportedly had to pay fees of up to US$4,000 to secure a contract in Qatar on promises of well-paid work and good conditions.
Over the course of the 12-year World Cup infrastructure project, Qatari workers returned home and reported low wages of under $1 an hour working 12-hour shifts, even during the summer months when temperatures in Qatar hit 43 degrees Celsius would achieve.
Global criticism prompted Qatar to make changes to its labor policies ahead of the tournament, including a minimum wage of 1,000 riyals ($275) a month.
While these changes have been welcomed, many will wait until the tournament is over to gauge the ultimate cost – financial and otherwise – of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.