In recent years, GCC countries have become prominent in hosting high-level sports events. These events include but are not limited to motorsports such as Formula 1 Grand Prix and elite level tournaments in sports such as cricket, tennis, golf, and combat sports such as, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Mixed martial arts (MMA), and boxing. Considered a sports mega event, the recent FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar was the largest sports event hosted in the region. This paper considers the political and economic aspects of GCC countries, with a specific focus on Qatar, increasingly hosting major sports events. Within the scholarly literature, growing attention has focused on hosting major sports events as a form of “soft power” or “sports diplomacy,” aimed at promoting a positive image of host countries internationally (Stanton, 2020; Abdi et al., 2019; Dubinsky, 2019; Murray, 2018; Trunkos & Heere, 2017). Long-term economic considerations such as sports tourism (Gratton, Shibli, & Coleman, 2007; Kurtzman & Zauhar, 2003) and infrastructure legacy (Preuss, 2018; Grix 2018; Baumann & Matheson, 2013) are also important for countries in the region that are trying to diversify their economies away from fossil fuels and comply with reducing greenhouse gas emissions as set out in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This paper argues that a variety of political (e.g. soft power/sports diplomacy) and economic (e.g. sports tourism and economic diversification) factors influence the decisions to host (i.e. plan and implement) major sports events in the region.
Using the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar as a case study, this paper seeks to answer two main questions. First, what are the goals of Qatar in hosting major sports events such as the World Cup? Second, can tangible benefits in terms of tourism, trade, inward direct investment, and improved relations with other states be observed in practice as derived from hosting major sports events such as the World Cup, especially given the controversies surrounding the event? The paper utilizes a case study research design along with data collection methods of semi-structured interviews with key informants, and analysis of secondary and primary sources to answer the research questions. This research adds to a growing body of scholarly literature on GCC countries hosting major sports events in the region and sheds further light on the multifaceted political and economic factors influencing these processes and outcomes.