It was only a matter of time: On Monday, Qatar’s National Olympic Committee officially announced that the Emirate would apply to host the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The request was officially reported to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Last year the World Athletics Championships were held in the Arab country – we remember the pictures of athletes collapsing from the heat. The World Cup will follow in two years. The small emirate with its almost three million inhabitants has discovered sport as a large international stage. It’s about »soft power«, international reputation and distraction from domestic and foreign political messes.
The World Cup was Qatar’s biggest coup so far. How the country managed to fish them remains an exciting question. The closer it gets to the championship, which will be played from November 21 to December 18, 2022, the louder it should be. The director of the state-of-the-art national sports academy in Doha, Andreas Bleicher, was not surprised by the bid shortly after the vote by the FIFA World Cup on December 2, 2010. There had been “certain signals in advance that it would work”. Where does this optimism come from?
There are persistent rumors that the contract was won not least thanks to professional lobbying “Made in Germany”. If one follows this hypothesis, a few pieces of the puzzle actually come together. It is immediately noticeable that the closer the election came in early December 2010, the more high-ranking visitors from the emirate came and went in Berlin. In return, the Chancellor landed in Qatar with a great entourage during an official visit to the Gulf region at the end of May 2010. Immediately after her return, she hurried to the DFB – officially, to wish the national players good luck for the World Cup in South Africa in their camp in South Tyrol.
Four months later, the Emir of Qatar personally traveled to Berlin to promote the expansion of economic relations. This was followed in November by visits from Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Thani, the head of the application committee, who met not only with the Chancellor, but also with DFB representatives. At the end of November, shortly before the World Cup hosts were chosen in Zurich on December 2, the sheikh met again with Franz Beckenbauer, who had a seat and vote on the FIFA Executive Committee at the time. In addition, a whole series of business conferences were held, such as in April 2010 in the Hotel Adlon in Berlin. The “German-Arab Economic Forum Ghorfa” was honored there, the top guest was Angela Merkel. From 2006 to 2013, the “Ghorfa” president was Thomas Bach, who subsequently became IOC president and is now quite pleased with the Emirates’ bid for the Olympic Games.
All these high-level gatherings weren’t supposed to be about Qatar’s prestige project? The good economic contacts between the Arab country and the FRG are documented. Deutsche Bahn had already received an order for a whopping 17 billion euros from Qatar at the end of 2009. Five years later, according to the Federal Ministry of Economics, Qatar’s stakes in German companies at that time were around 13 billion euros, above all with 17 percent at VW. The country also has influence at Deutsche Bank. Two funds now hold at least 6.1 percent of the shares, making them one of the five largest investors. The exact involvement is unknown.
At a German-Qatari economic conference in 2018, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani personally announced that his country would invest ten billion euros in Germany over the next five years. German companies also want to benefit from the Emirate’s enormous investment program to prepare for the 2022 World Cup. Around $ 200 billion is available to build the eight World Cup stadiums and improve the infrastructure in the country in general and the metropolis of Doha in particular. Supporting Qatar in its sporting projects can pay off.
A Qatar application promoted by Germany as a compensation deal? The prerequisite is met. When the 2006 World Cup was awarded to Germany, decisive votes came from the Asian association AFC or, more precisely, from its then boss Mohammed bin Hammam from Qatar. This was personally sent by his Emir for the German World Cup advertisers Franz Beckenbauer and Fedor Radmann. »The Emir is a good friend of ours who also helped us. He was an important companion. I don’t know if we could have made it without him, ”Beckenbauer said in a TV interview in 2011. In short: Bin Hammam was “instructed by his Emir to get a few votes for us,” said Beckenbauer frankly.
His heart club FC Bayern Munich, whose honorary president he is, moved to a training camp in Qatar for the first time in January 2011 – one month after the World Cup was awarded – and has returned every year since then. The logo of the state airline of Qatar is now clearly visible on the sleeves of the Bayern jerseys.