There is so much to say and write about the selection for the 2022 World Cup, and a lot of it has been written already at the sites that we all read. One of the benefits of not being able to give a rapid response is that I can read everyone else's response and formulate (one would hope!) a more detailed statement of my own. So here it goes.
The World Cup selection was a brutal lesson in power politics in international sport. The USA bid committee was outhustled and outmaneuvered by a Qatari bid that was a much higher risk to FIFA but hit all of FIFA's erogenous zones, especially those marked "Legacy" and "Historic". What FIFA demonstrated by this vote was that the technical merits of the presentation mean nothing -- the political maneuvering means everything. And if that's how the game will be played, the USA will always lose.
The Americans had an excellent bid for the 2022 World Cup, and they emphasized some of the aspects that I felt would give them an advantage -- its already existing stadia, its infrastructure, its cultural and ethnic diversity, its experience with conducting large-scale international sporting events. Yet they did not as good a job on the "soft" aspects of the World Cup bid -- What would make this World Cup special? What was "the legacy thing"? I don't think they had a good answer for either question. To offer to fund infrastructure for clean water in developing countries is a noble legacy -- one that would have a much more positive legacy for a lot more people than transporting newly-built stadiums in developing countries -- but that's not big enough in FIFA's eyes. (Even so, would ExCo members from the AFC and CAF be more inclined to vote for the USA? Doubtful.) A domestic league? Well, that was already done in 1994, and if Major League Soccer needs the World Cup to give new life to its league in 2022, then it has even more serious structural problems. And if the World Cup legacy is going to be a well-run, secure, and profitable tournament with very little public debt added, FIFA definitely does not care about that.
What FIFA -- and Sepp Blatter especially -- care about is being world-historical. They want their Nobel Peace Prize. They want to be able to say that they brought the top international sport competition into all corners of the world, in the process uniting internal divisions within countries and correcting misconceptions of said country from abroad. Of all the bids on the table, Russia and Qatar gave them a chance to do just that. Indonesia would have given them a chance as well, but Indonesia didn't have billions of petrodollars behind their bid. That Russia and Qatar are fairly autocratic states is a plus for FIFA; as long as they have the ear of the leader, they will always have access to the treasury. Would electorates in Australia, England, and the USA put up with the funding demands by an international sport organization that is unaccountable and composed largely of members that don't like the country anyway? The question answers itself.
Qatar made the most of the huge sums of money that they committed to the bid. They established alliances throughout Africa and Asia. They invited Argentina and Brazil to play a match in Doha. They put together a package composed of the ultimate set of stretch goals, and they constructed a coherent narrative that invited the members of the Executive Committee to make history. They outhustled the USA and all of the other bid competitors during the bid process, and for that reason they will host the World Cup in 2022.
I will write one or two more posts about the implications of the bid announcement later.