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Qatar’s World Cup Is a $300 Billion Splurge to Rebrand Its Global Reputation

Middle Eastern countries are vying to host marquee events like Formula One races, which boost tourism and prestige.

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Illustration: Laura Edelbacher for Bloomberg Businessweek

Qatar’s bid to host this year’s FIFA World Cup was controversial from the start. Beyond objections to the country’s history of human-rights abuses, there were also the searing temperatures and the sheer logistical challenges to consider: one outdated stadium, few hotels and zero experience with mass tourism.

Nothing, it turns out, that immense sums of money couldn’t address. Twelve years after winning the rights to host the tournament and $300 billion later, the tiny gas-rich nation is ready to host the best players in men’s soccer and about a million of their biggest fans. There are seven new stadiums, 20,000 new hotel rooms, a new metro and more than 1,100 miles of new roads, the culmination of a decade of nonstop construction and investment.