Saudi Arabia has virtually secured the hosting rights for the 2034 World Cup with no other bidder submitting any candidacy, per the New York Times.
This is a historic moment as the Gulf nation prepares to organize such a humongous competition with worldwide impact for the first time in history following the steps already taken by Qatar in the winter of 2022.
This decision aligns with Saudi Arabia’s visionary initiative, Vision 2030, a comprehensive plan aimed at steering the nation’s economy away from its traditional reliance on oil and gas. The plans are going to be delayed by four years, but a win’s a win for the Saudis nonetheless.
Yasser Al Misehal, president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF), emphasized the significance of claiming the 2034 FIFA World Cup, describing it as an invitation for the world to witness Saudi Arabia’s “development, experience its rich culture, and become an integral part of its evolving history.”
Under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has actively embraced sporting ventures in recent years, making headlines with investments such as the acquisition of English Premier League club Newcastle United and backing the LIV Golf tour. The nation also secured a decade-long, multi-million-dollar deal to host Formula One races, staged a heavyweight boxing fight between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz, and launched the Saudi Pro League, attracting global football stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema through 2023.
The absence of a voting process for the 2026, 2030, and 2034 World Cups stems from a rotational policy distributing hosting rights across continents. With an Asian nation forced into organizing the 2034 edition, the collective backing of an alternative was eliminated and thus there was no need for a vote, streamlining the decision-making process.
Despite being a relatively young contender in organized football, Saudi Arabia has been trying to establishe a football culture for the past three decades, starting with their first World Cup qualification in 1994 to their standout performance in 2022, where they defeated eventual champions Argentina.
Questions arise about the logistical challenges posed by the Gulf summer: similar to Qatar’s decision to shift the 2022 tournament to winter due to extreme temperatures, uncertainties surrounding the scheduling of matches and the overall feasibility of hosting the event in such conditions have already been raised by some people, although Qatar already proved capable hosting one of the best World Cups throughout last November and December, so it’s not that big of a deal.
Beyond sports, Saudi Arabia’s investment in major events serves dual purposes—promoting the nation as a tourist destination and positioning it as a global hub for opportunities... while trying to hide some of the shadiest business happening in the country. What did you expect? It wasn’t all going to be great.
The significant spending on infrastructure, tourism, and emerging industries is painted in fancy colors to reinforce Saudi Arabia’s commitment to a transformative and sustainable long-term economy. Don’t look for explanations about the other stuff coming from them.