Qatar and the World Cup – to develop as a centre for football and for mediation
Like many, I’m disappointed at England’s failure to be selected to host the 2018 World Cup. One of my earliest memories is of watching the 1966 final on a small black and white TV with my dad – and even now I still revere Bobby Moore. So I’ll never have the chance of taking my son to see England play in the World Cup at Wembley – by the time our turn comes round again, if ever, he’ll have to take me!
But that doesn’t mean I’ll respond to our loss in the traditional English way - declare a national humiliation, announce who’s to blame, and call for a public inquiry. For that isn’t what football is supposed to be about – OK maybe the beautiful game has become obsessed with money, but it still teaches us a lot about teamwork, about how to win and how to lose. Just witness my Sunday mornings on Wanstead Flats – the boys play hard, shake hands with their opponents after fouls, and give each other three cheers at the end. It’s the parents who don’t play the game that scream and shout.
And of course the other reason for my comfort is that Qatar will be hosts in 2022. Some have questioned how a country that is famously “half the size of Wales” can justify this honour, but as I know from my own experience it is a dynamic and thriving place with a clear ambition to become a key social, intellectual and sporting hub within the Middle East. Blessed with enormous national resources and a leadership committed to sustainable economic development, Qatar has astonishing plans for the infrastructure development of its capital over the next 20 years.
And more immediately it has emerging aspirations to become a mediation hub within the Middle East. On the diplomatic front, Qatar continues to broker the Darfur peace talks, and we are also seeing exciting developments within the civil and commercial sector, including the opening later this month of the new premises of the new Civil and Commercial Court and the Regulatory Tribunal for the Qatar Financial Centre. I’ve visited Qatar a dozen or so times in recent years as CEDR is working with the fledgling Court to develop a mediation capability under its auspices, and next month we’ll be running our second mediator skills training programme, leading to CEDR Accreditation, in the region. Just like building football stadia, it takes a long time to develop a new team of top quality experienced mediators, but Qatar has made a strong start, and shows the commitment to playing at the highest level.
Which is why I believe that the Qatar 2022 World Cup bid committee’s slogan is not only justified, but will prove to have wider application – “expect amazing”.