BIMcrunch Editorial: Have Qatar scored an own goal with the 2022 World Cup?

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Qatar is a country that has been of major intrigue to me since I began reporting on the various Building Information Modelling ‘mega-projects’ taking place within the country.

Despite the Western Asian state having had ambitious construction plans for a long time, FIFA‘s decision to award the ever-expanding nation the 2022 World Cup raised many an eyebrow, for both ethical and business reasons. Is this decision a matter of being ‘too much, too soon’ for Qatar? Let’s delve into the evidence.

Although the business is of more importance to us here at BIMcrunch, it’s impossible to ignore the ethical controversy behind the 2022 ‘extravaganza’. FIFA were originally scheduled to release an ethical report last month, looking into the bidding process for the world’s biggest football tournament back in 2010. However, the review has now been delayed until September. If the report deems that unethical practices were carried out, Qatar could be stripped of World Cup hosting privileges.

Should Qatar be stripped of their duties as World Cup organisers, what does this mean for the AEC sector workers who already feel they are in a race against time, battling to try and get the five new stadiums up-and-running? Will it be a total waste of time, effort and resources? On the positive side of things, I could say that at least people are being kept in work, even if the project’s they are working don’t end up coming to fruition. However, with reports regarding minute salaries and horrendously unsafe working conditions spreading like wildfire, is it worth the Qatari people risking life and limb for hardly any income? The country’s internal firms clearly aren’t doing enough to enforce health and safety on the projects they run, so should it be a case of pulling the plug before it’s too late? Ethically, the answer would be yes yet economically, the answer is clearly, and unfortunately, a resounding no.

A lot of people within the Building Information Modelling industry are backing the country though (although some sadly with pound signs in their view) and believe that with the right training, deaths can be avoided and the country could really prove itself as a leading figure in BIM adoption. Whilst this is all well and good, does the BIM industry really want our beloved technological game-changer to have the blood of workers on it’s hands? As far as I’m concerned, there are way better examples of BIM success stories that aren’t tarnished with an undertone of death.

ASTAD’s Ali Al-Khalifa believes that BIM is “software that can do things that engineers cannot” yet he also believes that “it also helps when our engineers have an average of 21 years experience”. Those with that kind of experience are being sought after left, right and centre, yet with all the horror stories making the news, who is going to want to take the risk and work in Qatar? Leading figures in Atkins and Autodesk also have faith in BIM being a beacon of light shining within a dark landscape, yet even they have reservations that it can successfully be of widespread adoption due to my aforementioned point about a lack of skilled workers wanting to go to the country.

Elsewhere, we also have to look at projects that are taking place to make sure the rest of Qatar is ready for the expected tourism. Although other projects such as Doha Rail and Education City seem to be going well in some regards, should the World Cup fall through, what is the point in building these new infrastructure and architectural developments? I’m not trying to be downbeat about Qatar’s drive and determination to want to grow and better itself, yet with only just over two million citizens, is the country ready for all of this expansion?

Time will tell to see what the future holds for Qatar and come September, the next potential twist in the story of their World Cup plight should be revealed. Although it is best to remain positive and hope that the country can quickly learn from it’s mistakes, it does seem like Qatar have scored an own goal by getting themselves involved with the FIFA World Cup.

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