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Fireworks explode as artists perform during the World Cup closing ceremony before the final between Argentina and France at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday. Image Credit: AP

Doha: After the World Cup earned Qatar both plaudits and censure, the energy-rich Gulf country is now starting a marathon to secure the 2036 Olympics and a place as a pillar of world sport.

Even as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo scored goals and shed tears in Qatar’s stadiums, its sports administrators were booking new victories off the pitch.

During the tournament, Qatar was awarded the 2025 world table tennis championships and the opening race of the world endurance championship in 2024, adding to its packed sports calendar.

Major renovation

Formula One returns in 2023, and a major renovation of Qatar’s race track went ahead during the World Cup shutdown.

Qatar also stepped in when China withdrew from holding the 2023 Asian Cup football and is to stage the world swimming championships in 2024.

Its beIN Sports channel with its growing viewership and rights portfolio only adds to Qatar’s sports muscle.

Game-changing tool

Hosting events is “a very powerful game-changing tool,” said Michael Payne, a former head of marketing for the International Olympic Committee.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino repeatedly said Qatar was hosting the “best ever” World Cup, and other federations have also welcomed Qatar’s generosity.

An official with the International Table Tennis Federation said “Qatar stepped in to help organise events when Covid devastated the calendar, and its facilities are all in place”.

Qatar won an overwhelming majority in the ITTF vote against Spain for the 2025 championships.