By the time you read this we will know whether England has been chosen to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup Finals.
Many in the UK footballing and infrastructure world will therefore now be either feeling manic excitement or abject disappointment.
And while of course the home interest of the 2018 decision is exciting, I have to admit that I have been more inspired and intrigued by Qatar’s bid for the 2022 event.
On the face of it, a bid to host an international sporting event outside in the 45˚C heat of the Middle East summer, by a nation of passionate but few in number football enthusiasts is a non-starter.
But add in the concept of creating the first-ever truly zero carbon international sporting event, with a dozen brand new solar powered air-conditioned stadiums and we suddenly have a serious proposition.
Thanks to infrastructure vision and engineering innovation we suddenly have an event that could actually also be a game changer when it comes to global energy supply. (See our picture story for images of the proposed stadium in Qatar)
Sounds to me like just the sort of low carbon thought leadership that chief construction adviser Paul Morrell has been calling for this week and which is set to dominate the future world economy.
Because according to celebrated global economist and advisor to the United Nations Jeffrey Sachs, “infrastructure will be the centrepiece of the 21st century economy”.
“We have an event which could be a game changer in terms of global energy supply”
He says it will be the “engine of growth” as we reach the “end of a global consumption boom and move to the start of the investment boom”.
Sachs was addressing the inaugural World Infrastructure Summit hosted by NCE in Barcelona this week. He pointed out that whether we are tackling developing world poverty, world economic recovery or climate change, “the challenge is an infrastructure challenge”.
And with an estimated $40tr (£26tr) of global investment required in transport, energy, social and water infrastructure by 2030 to tackle the challenge of a growing, ageing and increasingly urbanised world population, it is easy to understand why.
Yet despite the recent unprecedented financial chaos and economic turbulence witnessed recently across the world, finance is not the major problem when it comes to meeting the challenge.
On the contrary. As Sachs put it “there is a huge backlog of fundable [infrastructure] projects to fuel the economy in a way that consumers will not”.
The key to unlocking this investment is having the vital combination of engaged and supportive governments, with long term vision and a plan not just for what infrastructure is needed but also a plan for how to finance it.
It is for this reason that I find Qatar’s bid for the 2022 World Cup so exciting, despite the fact that it may well have been killed off by FIFA already.
I hope not. Because it is just this kind of bold and ambitious thinking that will inspire and enable the world to meet the often competing challenges of economic growth, poverty alleviation and climate change. And what a spectacle to boot!
- Antony Oliver is NCE’s editor