Soft Power and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar: Learning from Experiences of Past Mega-Sporting Event Hosts
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The experiences of past hosts to mega sporting events like the Olympics, or FIFA World Cup games show that there are numerous ways in which countries can be both empowered or disempowered through their pursuit of soft power. Through a selective literature review, this paper uses the relevant soft power experiences of six countries who have hosted either the World Cup or Olympic Games from 2008. The cases include China (Beijing 2008 Olympics), South Africa (2010 World Cup), United Kingdom (London 2012 Olympics), Brazil (2014 World Cup and Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics), Russia (Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, and 2018 World Cup), and Japan (Tokyo 2020 Olympics). The paper then considers Qatar’s 2022 World Cup with an angle on applying and adapting the experiences of past hosts to understand the soft empowerment or disempowerment that Qatar will likely face as a result of hosting the games. The numerous international concerns over the situation with migrant workers in Qatar, and the Islamic and cultural norms that are alien to Western audiences, will continue to challenge Qatar’s image management and branding measures. Nevertheless, the commitment to holding the most eco-friendly event, continuous presence on international soccer fields through sponsorships, ownerships, and winning championships, in addition to actively seeking to enhance and alleviate the status of the country on the global stage will help Doha in its soft empowerment endeavors in the period before and during the event. Its pledge and dedication to keeping a long-lasting legacy after December 2022 will also help the State in the post-event phase of soft empowerment.