Several sources claim that Qatar spent "at least" $229 billion in total over the past decade to prepare for hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup. I won't list all of the sources that make this claim, but here is an example from Reuters:

Gas-rich Qatar, in an attempt to emulate the dramatic transformation of Gulf rivals Dubai and Abu Dhabi, has spent at least $229 billion on infrastructure in the 11 years since winning the bid to host the World Cup.

This figure is wildly out of line with the spending on previous events of this type. It's also more than Qatar's GDP, which currently stands at below $200 billion. These facts caused me to be skeptical of the accuracy of this estimate.

I have looked for some detailed accounting of exactly what this money was spent on and when, but I haven't been able to locate any such information; most sources only seem to quote a headline figure such as $220 billion or $229 billion of total cost and don't elaborate further.

I have two questions here:

  1. Did Qatar really spend some amount on the order of $229 billion or more preparing for the 2022 FIFA World Cup over the past decade?
  2. If so, then what exactly was this money spent on and when? Is it possible to provide some rough accounting of what this money has purchased in very broad terms?

2 Answers 2


Read the actual Reuters claim more carefully. They are saying that the infrastructure spending of the entire nation of Qatar over the last eleven years was $229 billion. They make no claim of how much of this spending was in any way related to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Their GDP in 2022 is around $220 billion (see wikipedia), that would mean spending around 10% of their annual GDP on infrastructure. The amounts actually related to the World Cup are probably much smaller, but Reuters doesn't make any claim about that.

  • 10
    @Oddthinking Probably because that's what the question said it was. Nov 22, 2022 at 22:39
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    The problem with separating infrastructures from the World Cup itself is that many stadiums were constructed but are unlikely to be used after the World Cup. That was already the case for some stadiums built during the World Cup in South Africa. As constructing a brand new stadium in Paris and Doha is not the same, comparisons between budgets are complicated.
    – Taladris
    Nov 22, 2022 at 23:14
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    @Taladris To be more exact in previous world cups the stadiums are spread out enough that flights are needed to travel between stadiums while in this case they are all in driving range which makes future use more questionable for a country of that size.
    – Joe W
    Nov 23, 2022 at 2:41
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    @Oddthinking Added wikipedia as the obvious source for their GDP and removed the judgement on spending size. The point of the answer is that reuters doesn't make any claims on what Qatar spend on the world cup, they only talk about infrastructure in general.
    – quarague
    Nov 23, 2022 at 8:35
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    @quarague I agree that Reuters hasn't made any such claim, which I actually didn't check before asking the question - I took some other news source which cited Reuters as having said that Qatar spent $229B on the World Cup, checked the Reuters article for the $229B figure, and assumed (without reading the context) that it must have been referring to the same thing. That's my bad, though Reuters doesn't source the $229B figure either, and this figure seems to have been around even in 2013 from official Qatari government sources.
    – Ege Erdil
    Nov 23, 2022 at 15:31

I've obtained a rough breakdown of costs from BBC Radio's More or Less podcast:

  • Construction of stadiums: $8 billion
  • Construction of 140 new hotels with 55,000 rooms in total: $16.5 billion
  • Construction of a new metro system in Greater Doha: $36 billion
  • Spending on port facilities: $7 billion
  • Construction of a new road network: $20 billion
  • Hamad International Airport renovations: $13 billion
  • Security expenses: over $1 billion

These sum to around $100 billion, and the podcast also gives an estimate for total cost that's around $120 billion to $130 billion.

However, it's possible that a good chunk of this spending would have taken place irrespective of whether Qatar hosted the World Cup or not. For instance, the spending on a new metro system for the capital city or the construction of a new road network are projects that would have received some fraction of this spending even without Qatar having to host the World Cup.

Therefore I think even this $100 billion figure is likely at least somewhat overstated, and the cost of hosting the World Cup relative to the counterfactual world in which the privilege were awarded to some other country might be $50 billion or less. In any event, $229 billion seems to me like a substantial overestimate here.

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    One example from a different sports event: upgrading Sea to Sky highway in Vancouver was done as part of preparations for the 2010 winter Olympics, however it's an essential piece of infrastructure for the region and not just a throwaway project for the event. Nov 22, 2022 at 22:18
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    Are the BBC figures corrected for inflation? Not that you'd get to nearly double, but early costs would increase by up to about 30% (2012 to 2022). I assume the costs of bidding and winning are included in the $20-30B difference between the sum and the estimated total.
    – Chris H
    Nov 23, 2022 at 12:00
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    In the US, this is often the subject of controversy when cities lobby to host the Olympics. Those in favor point to all the infrastructure improvements that they couldn't get through the normal political process. Those against just decry the outsized spending that this will incur, which won't be matched by the expected revenues from the event. So one side sees the long-term good, the other sees the short-term expense.
    – Barmar
    Nov 23, 2022 at 16:13
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    Add another billion (likely far more) on directly and indirectly bribing FIFA to let Quatar host
    – Hobbamok
    Nov 23, 2022 at 18:45
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    @barmar except the "long term benefit" is often made up nonsense that never ever pans out. Instead money disappears into the black hole of politically connected contractors and you end up with a couple stadiums that fall apart in a couple years time. These, along with the Olympics, are almost universally boondoggles of waste and corruption (though at least in the us the workers aren't literally worked to death)
    – eps
    Nov 23, 2022 at 19:54

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