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2034 FIFA World Cup: Saudi Arabia Confirmed as Host after Australia Withdraws Bid

In a surprising turn of events, Saudi Arabia is now poised to host the highly anticipated 2034 FIFA World Cup after Australia decided to withdraw its bid to host the tournament. This development has generated a mix of excitement and controversy in the world of sports, as Saudi Arabia faces scrutiny over its human rights record and its use of sports as a means of “sportswashing.” let’s uncover the details surrounding this decision, the potential implications, and the broader context of Saudi Arabia’s growing involvement in global sports.

The Withdrawal of Australia’s Bid

Football Australia made the unexpected announcement just hours before FIFA’s deadline for declarations of interest, revealing their decision not to bid for the 2034 FIFA World Cup. Instead, they plan to channel their efforts into hosting the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2026 and the Club World Cup in 2029. This decision left Saudi Arabia as the sole remaining bidder for the 2034 World Cup.

Saudi Arabia’s Bid and Controversy in 2034 FIFA World Cup

Saudi Arabia’s intention to host the 2034 World Cup comes with a fair share of controversy. The nation has faced international criticism for its human rights violations, women’s rights abuses, criminalization of homosexuality, suppression of free speech, and its involvement in the conflict in Yemen. The killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist and government critic, in 2018 further damaged the country’s international reputation.

Human rights organizations have accused Saudi Arabia of using sports, a phenomenon known as “sportswashing,” to distract from its long-standing human rights issues. There are concerns that FIFA, as the world’s premier football governing body, might award the World Cup to Saudi Arabia without ensuring clear and binding commitments to address these issues.

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Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on FIFA to secure guarantees to protect workers’ rights, ensure freedom of expression, and prevent discrimination linked to the World Cup. They argue that these commitments should be agreed upon before final decisions on hosting the tournaments are made, rather than after the hosts have been confirmed.

Saudi Arabia’s Growing Role in Global Sports

Saudi Arabia’s interest in hosting major sporting events has been on the rise since 2018. The nation has successfully hosted events in football, Formula 1, golf, and boxing. They are set to host the Club World Cup in December, marking another milestone in their growing involvement in global sports.

The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) has taken control of several top football clubs in the Saudi Pro League, attracting high-profile players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, and Neymar. Additionally, the launch of the lucrative LIV Golf series in 2022 led to the merger of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour with PIF, further solidifying Saudi Arabia’s position in the sports world.

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Formula 1 held its inaugural race in Saudi Arabia in 2021, drawing attention to human rights concerns, while boxing world title fights have also been staged in the country. Saudi Arabia has even ventured into tennis, hosting a professional event for the first time in November and considering hosting the WTA Finals.

The decision by Australia to withdraw its bid for the 2034 FIFA World Cup has effectively positioned Saudi Arabia as the likely host for the tournament. However, this development has stirred controversy due to concerns about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and its use of sports for “sportswashing.” As Saudi Arabia continues to invest heavily in global sports, it faces increased scrutiny and pressure to address these issues.

The FIFA World Cup is more than just a sporting event; it’s an opportunity to promote change and accountability on the international stage. Whether Saudi Arabia can use this opportunity to address its human rights concerns remains to be seen, but it will undoubtedly be a topic of global discussion in the lead-up to the 2034 World Cup.

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