David Owen ©ITG

It is a relic from another era, the age of super-powered bidding battles, when political leaders in every major country under the sun were desperate to host marquee sports competitions.

It runs to 84 pages. It is printed on the glossiest paper imaginable. It is a brochure for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup bid.

The peak of the sports bidding frenzy came in 2005, when A-listers London, Paris, Madrid, New York and Moscow fought it out tooth and claw for the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

This Qatar document must date from 2009 or 2010. But there was still plenty of air left in the bubble. Flicking through its lustrous pages transports you instantly back to what now seems - to a European eye at least - a far-off time of confidence and progress and prosperity.

There were some who felt, as this sophisticated and eye-catching pitch rolled off the presses, that the notion of taking something as vast and all-consuming as a World Cup to Qatar was absurd.

This was a dot on the globe, the 158th-biggest country in the world, smaller than Vanuatu, smaller than Eswatini. World Cups were for big countries. What is more, Qatar was HOT. (This was before the switch to dates in the northern hemisphere's winter.) How could the world's top players function in the scorching desert climate? This explains why no fewer than eight pages of the brochure are devoted to "cooling technology".

And yet, when decision time arrived in December 2010, the world football body in its infinite wisdom plumped for Qatar in preference to Australia, South Korea, Japan and the United States. It was not even especially close. Indeed, one more vote and the tiny Gulf state would have won in the first round of the ballot.

Twelve years have passed. We stand on the very cusp of Qatar 2022. And the world has changed utterly. Many people, in poor and comparatively affluent nations alike, have found themselves beset by economic uncertainty almost continually in the intervening period.

Qatar is hosting the FIFA World Cup, with the first game scheduled for Friday ©Getty Images
Qatar is hosting the FIFA World Cup, with the first game scheduled for Friday ©Getty Images

We have also lived through a traumatising global pandemic. An upsurge of nationalism in a range of countries is further destabilising the world order.

This is the problem with designating mega-event hosts: the lead-time between choosing your partner and the event taking place is necessarily long.

Indeed, for reasons that are neither clear nor, in my view, justified, they appear to be getting longer.

So much in the world might change in the years leading up to the Opening Ceremony that decision-makers are essentially taking a punt on the future. The choice of Rio to stage the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, for example, seemed perfectly understandable in 2009 when the choice was made, even given a robust field of also-rans comprising Madrid, Tokyo and Barack Obama's Chicago.

By 2016, however, Brazil's once buoyant economy had slumped and it became ever clearer that the International Olympic Committee had pitched tent too soon in this gloriously scenic coastal city.

With Qatar, I would argue, something like the reverse has happened - a decision that may have seemed batty to many a dozen years ago now appears to make a lot more sense.

I mean, if you are going to stage a glitzy mega-event at a time of severe economic strain, then there has to be something to be said for siting it in a country that has so much money it scarcely knows what to do with it.

And as much as the current war-related energy crisis is eroding the purchasing power of millions of World Cup fans, it is doing no harm at all to the Qatari exchequer. As I write, the Financial Times, no less, has reported an International Monetary Fund projection that "energy-rich Middle East states are set to reap up to $1.3 trillion (£1.1 trillion/€1.25 trillion) in additional oil revenues over the next four years".

The 2022 World Cup is set to take place, moreover, at a time when the desirability for the West of maintaining a strong relationship with Qatar, which - despite its size - has the world’s third-largest reserves of natural gas, behind Russia and Iran, is glaringly apparent.

Russia held the last FIFA World Cup, but the country is banned this time around  ©Getty Images
Russia held the last FIFA World Cup, but the country is banned this time around ©Getty Images

Simon Chadwick, professor of sport and the geopolitical economy at SKEMA Business School in Paris, believes that the tournament will help Qatar to "cement itself as a trusted international partner and a dependable focal point for those from across the world who are seeking to build consensus".

For all the issues that Western liberals might take with aspects of Qatar's internal policies and world view, I tend to agree.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine means that the competition will, however, almost certainly not be able to fulfil the non-football-related part of its legacy ambitions.

According to the glossy brochure, "beyond football and in alignment with FIFA's objectives, a higher goal is at play - an amazing sense of global unity as only football can achieve".

Under current circumstances, I doubt that anything will bring home to ordinary Russians their country's present status as a pariah in international sport more starkly than the Russian team's absence from Qatar 2022.

After all, it was only four years ago that Russia itself was hosting the tournament, with football fans from around the world getting to know the country for themselves and the home team carving an exciting path as far as the quarter-finals.

"Expect Amazing" was the (syntactically challenged) slogan for the Qatar bid. It remains to be seen if that will be justified, but "Expect Different" certainly will be, if not for the millions watching via screens all over the world, then at least for those avid supporters who opt to follow their team's progress on the ground.

As a veteran of four FIFA World Cups, my memories of the intervals between games are dominated by inter-city travel, often criss-crossing with diverse groups from one competing country or another who were in the middle of their own match-to-match peregrinations.

In Qatar, the venue-plan is so compact that, once you have arrived in the Gulf, such journeyings will be dramatically reduced. This too could be said to make unexpectedly good sense at a time when living standards in many of the countries supplying teams look set to be under severe pressure. I doubt that a month-long stay in Qatar at World Cup time will be exactly cheap for anyone, but at least the cost of domestic travel should be minimal.

Eight stadia are set to be used, with the final to be played at Lusail Iconic Stadium  ©Getty Images
Eight stadia are set to be used, with the final to be played at Lusail Iconic Stadium ©Getty Images

And what will fans find when they get to Doha? Much Western press over the more than a decade since FIFA picked Qatar has focused on issues such as labour practices and freedom of expression.

In the meantime, the Qatari capital has pressed on with its development into one of those sleek world cities in which nearly anyone can feel sort of at home and which help to oil the wheels of international commerce.

World Cup ticketholders will find a place used to catering for visitors of multiple nationalities, where stuff works to a high standard and where most if not all Western brands and other creature comforts are readily available at a price.

For example, the Financial Times reported in August that Deliveroo, the food delivery company, was "expanding into Qatar over the next few months". Even 13 years ago, I was amazed to discover that the catering at a stadium where I was attending a match was supplied by Fauchon, the high-class Paris gourmet food outlet.

The glossy bid brochure contained lavish four-page profiles of 11 stadia. These included Al-Khor - "stunning asymmetrical seashell motif"; Al-Wakrah - "the football oasis"; and Al-Gharafa -"facade will be made up of the colours of the flags of all countries that have qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar to symbolise football and the friendship, mutual tolerance, respect and understanding what the tournament and Qatar represents". In the event, just eight stadia look set to be used for the 32-team, 64-match tournament.

This still seems to me quite a lot of top-notch football infrastructure for a place the size of Qatar. So, bearing in mind what Sheikh Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, former secretary general of the Qatar Olympic Committee, once said to me, I would expect one of the legacies of this World Cup to be an upsurge in the number of international football showpiece occasions to be staged in Qatar.

"Once we build a facility, we want to do two things," the Sheikh explained.

"First we want to make sure it's not a white elephant; then we have a strategy. And our strategy is really to plan for the best events in the world to be held here in Qatar."

With China apparently reining in its football ambitions, at least for the time being, I would expect these new Qatar venues to be used in coming years for big Asian football matches, for pre-season and midwinter friendlies featuring the world's richest clubs, as well as perhaps the odd European domestic cup final and international championships of other team sports.

The World Cup's position on the calendar presents little time for some players to recover from injury - while others will  benefit from a mid-season break ©Getty Images
The World Cup's position on the calendar presents little time for some players to recover from injury - while others will benefit from a mid-season break ©Getty Images

Another legacy, forced by the November/December timing of Qatar 2022, is that it will disrupt the 2022-2023 European club football season.

This may cause problems for players if it obliges them to pack in yet more matches. But it may also make European title races a tad less predictable, which I for one would count as a blessing.

I say this because, while most of the world's top players will be battling for the coveted World Cup, a few will presumably be able to rest up, prior to roaring back refreshed in January. Neither Egypt nor Norway have qualified for Qatar 2022. It follows that the main strikers of both Liverpool - Egypt's Mo Salah - and Manchester City - Norway’s Erling Haaland - should be fresh and raring to go when the key second half of the European season gets under way.

Some believe that this disruption to European club football is just the start of a much more profound challenge to international sport's traditional structures and governance as the old order comes increasingly under question.

According to SKEMA’s Chadwick: "The existing system of governance is essentially 'Western' - the people and organisations that established them; the values and operating principles that underpin them; the other organisations with which they typically work.

"Some elsewhere in the world would argue that the established system of governance therefore favours the West."

Chadwick goes on: "Globalisation has nevertheless resulted in a number of countries from the global South which are growing quickly, accumulating power, feeling increasingly emboldened, and now have a more questioning relationship with Western institutions.

"Often", he suggests, "the values such countries embody are not best represented and upheld by organisations based in Lausanne or Florida".

Qatar's record on human rights has been one of the dominant themes of the World Cup build-up  ©Getty Images
Qatar's record on human rights has been one of the dominant themes of the World Cup build-up ©Getty Images

"Unless the global governance of sport adapts to account for these changes, one envisages that some countries may seek to enact their own measures," Chadwick added.

"This may include challenging existing principles, values, structures and systems, perhaps by introducing rival or supplementary approaches to governance."

In the fast-developing realm of esports, Chadwick observes, "one already sees that there is something of a scramble taking place between different entities to secure a position as the global governing body. For instance, there are four or five different organisations in China trying to position themselves to achieve this."

The West, he concludes, faces "an inconvenient truth". This is "that we no longer live in the first half of the 20th century, when many of the world's now biggest sports governing bodies were established".

"This", he argues, "is rendering existing systems of governance obsolete, which seemingly necessitates a process of internal re-engineering".

"Without this, one envisages that existing models of governance will be increasingly undermined and their power diminished," he added.

If he is right, the real geopolitical legacy of Qatar 2022 may have less to do with the regrettably naive pipedream of global unity and more with rebalancing international sport’s power structures to the detriment of those regions which have ruled the roost ever since the sector was establishing itself as a mainstay of humanity’s multiplying leisure hours.

By any yardstick, that would be a major change.