In other words, Qatar has lived up to its promise: It said it would put on a show, and it has. There have been no savings,Nothing has been overlooked. It has big, bold, and spectacular plans for what you could call the tournament experience.
The Fifa World Cup 2022 carnival is exorbitant:The enormous, fire-breathing spider has responded with a positive yes, which is good news. After all, it is difficult to imagine the World Cup without its most cherished custom: A monstrous arachnid-shaped structure made out of 50 tonnes of decommissioned crane that has been filled with highly flammable fuel and, hopefully, DJs that are less flammable after that.
The spider will serve as the focal point of one of the cultural highlights of the World Cup in Qatar this winter: the Arcadia Spectacular, a month-long electronic music festival held just south of Doha that boasts “electrifying atmosphere, extraordinary sculpted stages, and the most immersive shows on earth.”
Although it was only revealed relatively late in the World Cup preparations, promoters anticipate it to draw about 200,000 attendees. The idea was transparently modelled after England’s Glastonbury Festival, where the spider has been a regular feature for ten years. They should all be warned that they will “be mesmerised late into the night,” it turns out.
The Fifa World Cup 2022 carnival is exorbitant
But the spider won’t be alone, and when you’re a terrifying metallic behemoth, that might be a problem.
Qatar 2022 will also include other music festivals in addition to the Arcadia Spectacular. Another one is planned for Al Wakrah and is being organised by MDLBEAST: Because it is written in block capital letters, which are the least modern type of letter, and also because some of its vowels have been eliminated, you can tell it will be cutting edge.
But the entertainment options available to fans throughout the tournament go far beyond those specific events. There is Al Maha Island, which has an ice skating rink, a circus, and a theme park; Lusail, the first World Cup city built; the Doha Corniche; its 4 miles of roaming street performers and “carnival atmosphere”; and, of course, the beach clubs, the fan park, and the catchily named “Last Mile Cultural Activation” that takes place around every stadium for every game.
In other words, Qatar has lived up to its promise: It said it would put on a show, and it has. There have been no savings. Nothing has been overlooked. It has big, bold, and spectacular plans for what you could call the tournament experience.
It is just unfortunate that they are in no way representative of what fans want or need and that they reveal such a fundamental misunderstanding of what it is that makes a World Cup special on the part of both the local organisers and, more damningly, FIFA itself.
Really, it isn’t the soccer that brings about the World Cup. Of course, there are times when the games are breathtaking, suspenseful, and heartbreaking because what happens on the field is permanently imprinted in the collective consciousness like a vivid, long-lasting tattoo or an agonising scar. But more frequently than not, it is something ethereal. At its core, the World Cup is an emotion.
The concept of holding the World Cup in Qatar has a lot of drawbacks. First and foremost, there are the persistent worries regarding human rights and the unsettling amorality of a competition founded on indentured labor. Additionally, there is the unsettling doubt as to whether or not gay fans will be truly welcomed at this tournament.
There is also the price. The organisers of the competition insist that Qatar has a “comfortable inventory for fans” and that there will be “up to” 130,000 rooms available to host spectators each night of the competition. With options ranging from hotels to villas and apartments to cruise ships, luxurious tents, basic cabins, and even camper vans, there is “something to suit everyone,” as well. According to a spokesperson for the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the least expensive option is “as low as $80 per room per night.”
For specific dates, there are apartments available for $102 per person, per night, but they come with a warning that supply is running low. If you don’t get them, the price will rise quickly. Additional choices start at $300 per night. A high-end tent costs more than $400. A cruise ship berth costs around $500. For just one night, hotels can cost thousands of dollars.
This is the World Cup as it is envisioned by Qatar and, it would appear, FIFA as well: a high-end good, a lifestyle experience that can be purchased at a certain price point, a haven for the corporate class, the itinerant rich, and the luxury traveller. It is an event created by consultants, for consultants, the kind of setting where a huge, fire-breathing spider is hired to cover up the lack of sensation with spectacle.
Sadly, it will make this World Cup worse. It is not possible to command a carnival atmosphere to appear. Just as it is impossible to replace the organic, genuine melting of thousands of fans from all over the world with a series of “cultural events” and “sponsor activations,” it is also impossible to take all of the stages, sets, and logistics of Glastonbury and simply recreate them somewhere else.
The people are what make the World Cup and always have made the World Cup. Not the players on the field, not even the spectators, but the people who simply show up to observe, to take it all in, to add colour, sound, and joy.
It is difficult to avoid worrying that many of those fans will have been priced out of Qatar or excluded due to the country’s restrictions on entry without a match ticket, and that with them the mood will change, turning the tournament into an ersatz version of itself, a tribute to all that money can buy, including a flame-throwing spider, and all that it cannot.