Istanbul, 26 Dec. 2022 (Anadolu News)
By Hamza Karcic (The author is an associate professor at the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Sarajevo).
In 3 questions, Evaluated The Steps Taken To Enhance Qatar’s Soft Power And The Contribution Of The Latest World Cup To The Country’s Image.
- How can we define soft power?
In an article published in Foreign Policy in 1990, Harvard University professor Joseph Nye introduced and then popularized the concept of “soft power.” This is the type of power “which occurs when one country gets other countries to want what it wants.” Nye further argued that “co-optive power is the ability of a country to structure a situation so that other countries develop preferences or define their interests in ways consistent with its own.”
While Nye pointed out that ideological and cultural appeal as well as institutions were fundamental, much has changed since the article got published more than three decades ago. Yet the idea of soft power has persisted and soft power is now being exercised in novel ways. American soft power has been the primary focus of Nye’s writings but a number of other countries have developed and enhanced their own soft power in different ways.
- What were the steps to Qatar’s soft power?
At the beginning of 1995 with Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani’s ascent to power, Qatar undertook a number of steps to position the country on the map of rising powers. The best-known project was the establishment of Al Jazeera first in Arabic and then in English. While Al Jazeera Arabic changed the media landscape in the Middle East, its English platform went global. Over the past decade and a half, Al Jazeera English has emerged as one of the most influential media outlets internationally.
Unlike the largely Western-centric reporting of its competitors, Al Jazeera English has managed to offer a multitude of perspectives from across the globe. Its reporting and documentaries about the everyday lives of people on different continents have been a welcome shift away from the previous media reporting mainly centered on political decisions in global capitals. Al Jazeera’s regional branches such as Al Jazeera Balkans have contributed immeasurably to enriching the media landscape in eastern Europe.
There are a number of other Qatari initiatives such as mediation in conflicts which have positioned the country as a relevant political factor beyond its borders. The Gulf state acted as a mediator in Sudan, Yemen, and Lebanon. Doha played host to talks between the US and the Taliban and Qatar has a crucial role in the evacuations from Afghanistan last year. However, winning the bid to host the football World Cup this year turned out to be a major step which propelled international interest in the Gulf state. Back in 2010, Qatar was selected to host the most important event and became the first country in the Middle East to host the World Cup.
- Has the latest World Cup contributed to Qatar’s soft power?
Over the past years and continuing into the World Cup tournament, there were a number of articles published in certain Western media outlets raising concerns about Qatar and its ability to host such a large and prestigious event. However, these skeptics and critics were proven wrong. In fact, the World Cup proceeded successfully in a safe and secure environment. In meeting the variety of organizational logistics, Qatar proved its ability to host prestigious global events.
Media reports indicate that Qatar may have invested as much as $220 billion in little over a decade to build the infrastructure and logistics for the World Cup. This is a figure far beyond what has been invested in the previous World Cups. In fact, FIFA president Gianni Infantino described the World Cup in Qatar as the “best in history”.
Apart from the organization, the latest World Cup will be remembered particularly for the thrilling finals held on December 18 between Argentina and France. FIFA estimated that the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia were watched by 3.57 billion people. Once all the statistics are in, the figure for the finals in Qatar may well surpass the 2018 record.
There is little doubt that successfully hosting the World Cup enhanced Qatar’s image and prestige globally. While many in different corners of the world may not have known much about this Gulf state, Qatar has been in the spotlight for the past four weeks. Numerous articles, documentaries, and media reporting are a testament to the rising interest in the World Cup host state.
Furthermore, this World Cup will be a boost not only to Qatar and the Middle East but to the rest of the non-Western countries. It also strengthens the case for holding the World Cup in different regions of the world where it was not organized before.
Now that the World Cup is over, Qatar has an eye for the 2036 Olympic Games. This bid would fulfill Qatar’s objective of being host to global sporting events. In fact, hosting the most watched sporting events is one of the most effective ways of promoting a country’s image.
*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.
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