The development of mega sports events over the last thirty years has been underpinned by the case of urban regeneration or national developments. The literature on urban policy and planning highlights the interplay between mega-sporting events and notable transformation in urban development (Gratton and Henry 2002, Hiller 2000, Chakley and Essex 1999). As cities and nations have sought to bid competitively for major sporting events (e.g., the World Cup, the Olympics, Asian Games, and regional sports competitions) to both showcase achievement as well as create opportunities for the development of new physical infrastructure. They also provide a potential forum from which to enhance the tourist industry towards the host cities or countries. The issue of urban regeneration through sporting events has become a major theme for urban policy and planning. The impacts of seemingly ongoing economic restructuring, technological as well as policy change has meant that the basis for many urban economies has undergone fundamental shifts within which certain areas have high levels of social exclusion and deprivation (Hall 2004). The concept of urban regeneration through sporting events includes both physical and social dimensions (Page and Hall 2003). The physical component of urban regeneration is primarily concerned with architecture and image, whereas the social dimensions of urban regeneration are concerned with improving the quality of life of those who already live in target areas. Only rarely, if at all, have the implications of mega-sporting events been promoted for their social or cultural significance. The London 2012 case for the Olympics, for example, was predicated on the importance of London as capital which promoted and valued social, ethnic and religious diversity of an increasingly cosmopolitan society (Fussey, Coaffee, Armstrong, Hobbs 2011, Raco and Tunney 2010). The value of sport to further enhance such social change should not under-estimated, whether it is at the level of the city or a nation. Although some of the literature on urban planning has stressed the potential sociological transformation that emerges from hosting major sporting events, primarily through the construction of a national identify (Tomlinson and Young 2006, Horne and Manzereitter 2006), there is a major gap in the literature on the impact of sporting events on inter-religious relations. The Qatar World Cup of 2022 offers a major opportunity to rethink the implications using sport as way of facilitating better cultural and inter-religious relations in one of the most conflict torn regions in the world. This particular event will allow for the assessment of the impact of hallmark events on a social fabric that is maintained though abidance by specific religious norms. Some research has attempted to explore the potentially disruptive social transformation that participation by female athletes and spectators in sporting events could have on sociocultural sensitivities in Muslim countries (Amara and Brown 2008, Jahromi 2011). In contrast, this paper will outline the potentially constructive social transformation that a major sporting event could have on enhancing inter-religious relations. This paper will map out the areas of potential analysis for such a project. The paper will examine the institutional resources available for such an exercise and evaluate the policy effectiveness of the promotion activities associated with the Qatar World cup bid and the organisational process which aim to encourage better social diversity and interactions. The paper will outline details of a major project which will develop a framework of working with the key stakeholders to develop policy effective initiatives that can further strengthen a better understanding of inter-religious and inter-cultural relations. Our paper will draw upon analysis based on social survey research conducted in countries where large sporting events have been held in countries with significant religious heterogeneity. The findings from these surveys will be linked to future survey research in Qatar.


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