I spent more than three weeks in Doha, Qatar, in January covering the 24th Men’s Handball World Championship.
Several colleagues have since asked me about the facilities and work conditions for journalists; interest was particularly high since Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and more recently was awarded the 2019 World Athletics Championships –one of the largest sporting events in the world– by the IAAF, track and field’s international governing body. It’s also no secret that Qatar is yearning to host a Summer Olympic Games. This event, the first team championship hosted by the emirate, was a pivotal early test for the bid that is gradually being put in place.
So, here’s a summary based solely on my experience in one of the three venues used for the championship. Bear in mind that this is not an official report on the media operations nor should it be construed as anything remotely resembling one. It’s simply a collection of notes and observations as seen through my keen eyes.
When approaching a major sporting event hosted by Qatar, it’s impossible to ignore the financial resources available to the natural gas-rich Gulf state. Qatar is the richest country per capita on the planet; from its recently opened $16 billion airport to the brand new venues and their state of the art facilities, that wealth was impossible for any observer to ignore. But besides the promise of new purpose-built arenas, how many other potential host bids –for just about any sport– can promise to invite some 700 journalists –all expenses paid for an 18-day championship? Most handball experts and long-time observers agreed that Qatar 2015 managed to raise the bar impossibly high.