Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup, defeating a bid by the United States in a vote by FIFA’s executive committee Thursday.
Qatar will make history by hosting the first World Cup in the Middle East. Australia, South Korea and Japan were also bidding for the 2022 tournament.
FIFA also awarded Russia its first World Cup in a vote for the 2018 tournament host. Twenty-two FIFA executive committee members cast their votes by secret ballot in Zurich. The other contenders for 2018 were England, Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Netherlands.
FIFA approved an ambitious bid by Qatar that includes a plan to spend $4 billion on air-conditioned stadiums in a country where summer temperatures typically exceed 48 degrees.
Qatar bid leaders said the heat would not be an issue in Wednesday’s final pitch to FIFA voters.
“In Mexico in ’86 there was a great deal of heat and altitude. Despite this it was a wonderful World Cup,” said Bora Milutinovic, Mexico’s coach in 1986 who was brought in by Qatar’s bid leaders. “The heat will not be a problem in Qatar. They have air-conditioned stadia.”
By choosing Qatar, FIFA rejected a bid by the United States to host the tournament nearly three decades after a highly successful World Cup. The 1994 World Cup set an attendance record of 3.5 million that still stands. The U.S. bid for 2022 projected 5 million tickets will be sold, generating $1 billion in ticket revenue.
Former president Bill Clinton, actor Morgan Freeman and U.S. national team player Landon Donovan were part of the USA’s final pitch to voters Wednesday. Clinton, the honorary bid chairman, spoke of the country’s strong infrastructure and the growing popularity of the game among Americans.
“You won’t have to worry about construction deadlines or ticket sales,” Clinton said during the U.S. bid presentation Wednesday. “Even in 2010 in South Africa the United States citizens accounted for the second largest block of purchased tickets after South Africans. You will be free to elevate this game as never before and show how it can make the world a better place.”