Nov 23, 2022 - Sports

The tiniest World Cup host ever

Data: Axios research; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals Note: This chart has been corrected to show that the magnification of Qatar is 8x, not 4x.

Qatar 2022 is the most confined World Cup ever, with all eight stadiums located within 33 miles of each other.

Why it matters: The compact setup significantly lessens the travel demands for teams and fans, which has its perks.

  • For teams, less travel means more time for recovery and preparation. There's also no change in weather like there was in 2018, when Russian host cities were separated by as many as 1,557 miles.
  • For fans, it makes it possible to attend multiple matches per day — a unique opportunity and a far different experience than, say, 1994, when matches were held from coast-to-coast in the U.S.

Yes, but: Holding the World Cup in a country the size of Connecticut — and having over 1 million fans descend on a nation of less than 3 million people — isn't all good news.

  • Accommodations are stretched, which forced many fans to stay in nearby cities, like Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the U.A.E., and fly into Qatar for matches.
  • Space is so tight that some of the newly constructed stadiums are doubling as practice fields.

What they're saying: Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter made headlines this month when he admitted choosing Qatar was a "mistake." But his reasoning wasn't corruption or human rights — it was size.

  • "It's a country that's too small," Blatter continued. "Football and the World Cup are too big for that."
  • Time will tell if Qatar is, in fact, "too small." For now, there are both positive and negative aspects to the country's tininess.

Editor’s note: This article was corrected to show that Dubai is located in the U.A.E., not Saudi Arabia.

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