Sports is one of the oldest forms of means people use for bilateral relations, conflict resolutions, and trade terms. It has continued to generate huge sums of profits for many countries.

Sports Diplomacy and Soft Power

Sports has always been the means of soft power diplomacy. Sports diplomacy; a growing field of academic and civil society interest, is understood to encompass the utilization of sports as a means to achieve concrete objectives.

Like, as mitigating discord and antagonism, as well as facilitating strangers’ mutual exchange. Many governments and organizations leverage sports to promote soft power diplomacy through cultural exchange and mutual understanding.

Not forgetting that the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing represented one important manifestation of how sports played as a soft power tool for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Also, countries use sports diplomacy as a deliberate strategic means to create a favorable international image.

 In 2016, the High-Level Group (HLG)’s report gave recognition and championed the term sports diplomacy and related it to an effective tool for cultural diplomacy.

Attracting global reputation and as well act as a diplomatic lubricant for diplomatic relations. Through the sending of high profiles and personalities by countries to attend.

Qatar’s Sports Diplomacy 

History has it that, sports diplomacy is dated back to the ancient Olympiad in the old Greek City-States where people competed for prices.

It led to people moving from different places to city-states for numerous competitions. The engagements, relations, and dialogues brought some form of diplomatic relations among many of them.

The Berlin Olympic Games of 1936 were used by Hitler’s Nazi regime to show their strength and also help boost their image.

They were able to get people to diplomatically relate with them. Down the line, there has been a shift from hard power politics in sports toward soft power.

Qatar’s involvement in sports was not fully identified not until 2010 when the former FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, announced that Qatar would be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Many people were wondering how a small country with hardly an interest in football will host this biggest event. Considering Qatar is a desert country situated in the Arabian Peninsula, and the temperature in Summer rises above forty degrees Celsius.

But this was not a challenge for the government of Qatar but rather a blessing for them to increase their diplomatic sports role.

In 2011, with the launch of the National Development Strategy from 2011-2016, the Qatar Olympic Committee (QCC) “presented the number aim of the emirate’s sports diplomatic strategy, which is to focus on investment and financial allocation.”

The goal of Qatar was to position itself as a modern, liberal, Western-friendly, international cooperation and peace-loving country through sports diplomacy and exhibited that in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Qatar has been the official sponsor of many sports organizations and clubs. From 2013-2017 Qatar was the official sponsor of Barcelona, Spain La Liga.

From the line,  2015-2018, Qatar Airways was the official sponsor of the Al-Ahli Saudi FC, Saudi Arabia Football League Club.

Taking of Roma and many others football clubs Qatar has sponsored can not be measured. Qatar airways continue to make waves in the sports environment. 

What was seen by many as suppressed when Qatar was selected to host the 2022 World, finally came to reality after many years and months of preparations to receive a large number of people from different places.

Having been the first country in the Middle East to host the tournament and considering its population and involvement in sports was a wonder for many.

An estimated number of about 26, 000 people were employed to work on preparing for the building of the stadiums.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked start on 20 November where a large number of people from all walks of life. People from different backgrounds, nationalities, and personalities with different cultures and beliefs gathered in Doha, Qatar.

In the opening speech, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani said “from Qatar, from the Arab world, I welcome everyone to the World Cup 2022.”

Emphasizing the diplomatic benefits of the event, he added, “How lovely  it is that people can put aside what divides them to celebrate their diversity and what brings them together all at once.”

The Emir was much focused on the advantages this event will yield for the public diplomacy of his country. Qatar was able to use its public diplomacy to get many of the participants to obey the rules and regulations of the country.

The President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, assured the world at the event’s start that this year’s football festival will be full of civilized communication and open space human relations.

The ability of the people to relate with each other, despite their differences, was much admired. Those who have not been in good relations with Qatar but still came and participated peacefully were something much more admirable.

The absence of racial discrimination and gender-based violence were all applauded for the outstanding work Qatar did to promote the diplomacy of sport.

The scene of unity and love from the opening ceremony by  Ghanim Al Muftah, a Qatari activist for the disabled, and Morgan Freeman, a Hollywood superstar, was wealth-watching.

The unity which ensured that sports is the base for diplomacy was brought to play. Ranging from the fans of the countries to the spectators.

The Emir of Qatar said, “We worked with many people to make it one of the most successful tournaments, making effort to invest in the good of all humanity.”


*The writer is a Fellow at The Diplomatic Insight, published by the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies 

Disclaimer: The Diplomatic Insight does not take any position on issues and the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Diplomatic Insight and its staff.