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Qatar queuing for the big ball.

Byline: Aarti Nagraj

Summary: With FIFA confirming Qatar as one of its 10 potential bidders for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, does the country actually have a chance of winning?

Qatar could be getting ready to host more than just the 2011 Asian Cup. FIFA president Sepp Blatter recently announced a list of 10 potential bidders for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which includes Qatar.

This isn't the first time that Qatar has bid to host international sporting games; the country has hosted the 1988 AFC Asian Cup, the Asian Games in 2006, and will be again be hosting the Asian Cup in January 2011 after the other bidders - India and Iran - pulled out of the race.

And the country is starting to take steps to submit its bid. Athanasios Batsilas, the technical director of the Qatar Football Association told Gulf Times that they will be submitting the blueprints for up to four ultra-modern new stadiums for the bid.

Also, Batsilas said that FIFA announcing hosting rights for two World Cups could be to Qatar's advantage. The process allows for each country to submit bids for either the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cups.

Furthermore, "If Qatar decides to bid for the 2020 Olympics then the World Cup bid for 2018 would make sense, because then the stadiums could be built with the Olympics in mind. But again, since this will be the first time that FIFA is entering in such a process, it seems that there will be no limitation on a specific bid," he told the paper.

According to Observer Sport , Qatar's controversial failure to make the short list for the 2016 Olympics could enhance the country's bid for the 2018 World Cup.

Qatar was not included in the Olympics short-list despite its own evaluation commission ranking the bid equal on technical merit with Chicago and ahead of Rio de Janeiro, which were put through to the next stage.

Jacques Rogge, the President of the IOC,Aalater said that Doha's proposed date ofAaOctoberAafor the 2016 Games, chosen to avoid the summer heat, were outside the Olympics recommendation of July and August.

But apart from the heat, many other reasons have been cited by the media and bloggers, which include Qatar's lack of tourist attractions, shortage of hotels and transport, low population, and IOC's fear of Qatar's financial clout.

While Qatar could improve infrastructure in terms of hotels and transport in time for the World Cup, the rest of the issues can't really be changed. Most of the FIFA world Cups take place between May and July, which isn't a good time for Qatar. Also, the lack of tourist destinations and a small population are not going to drastically change in the next few years.

But FIFA recently launched its official website in Arabic, the fifth language of the site, which does indicate that the body is recognizing the importance and popularity of football in the Middle East. And with Qatar the only likely bidder from the region, will it be able to beat competition from England, Japan, and Australia?

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Date:Jan 18, 2009
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