Qataris and foreigners residing in Doha celebrate after Qatar was chosen to host the 2022 World Cup in December 2010. Photograph: Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images
From Beijing to Bloemfontein from Doha to Delhi, major sporting events have become an arm of global development and diplomacy over the past decade. Why else would Vladimir Putin be putting the finishing touches to a grandiose $50bn winter sport resort built from scratch beside the Black Sea?
The process is set to accelerate. The next decade will see the Olympicstravel to Sochi, Rio and Pyeongchang. Fifa's World Cup caravan will head for Brazil, Russia and then – most controversially the tiny oil-rich Emirate of Qatar.
Somebody forgot to tell the English Football Association, which wasted £21m bidding for the 2018 World Cup, but amid a chaotic and controversial bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 editions of the biggest sporting event on the planet it became clear that Fifa was on a mission to conquer new lands.
Taking their signature "mega events" to virgin territory not only appeals to the sizeable egos of those who run world sport, which they coat in buzzwords invoking world peace and sporting development, but also has the obvious benefit of spreading their commercial footprint wider.
In return for the gift of the World Cup, of course, Fifa has a few trifling demands. Such as being able to realise its profit from tickets and sponsorship tax free. Or introducing special World Cup courts for the duration of the tournament. Or demanding a new stadium be built in Cape Town because the existing one didn't have good enough views of Table Mountain. Along the way, the distinction between the outlay required to host the event itself and the infrastructure demanded by the organisers to do so has completely broken down. Even London was not sold to the British public as a sporting event, but as an opportunity to accelerate the regeneration of London's east end and overhaul the image of the nation.
Host countries have started to use the investment required in roads, airports, trains and hotels as a Keynesian argument for bidding in the first place. As such, governments pull out all the stops to secure them.
For all these reasons, in Qatar and elsewhere, it would be disingenuous to separate wider political and economic aims from the staging of the tournament. The stakes are raised higher for a young, hugely rich, fast growing middle eastern country that wants to vault onto the global stage. Qatar sees hosting the World Cup as part of a much wider plan to position itself as the diplomatic, cultural and sporting hub of the region, future-proofed against the day when its natural gas reserves run out.
Flick through the dense, buzzword heavy document entitled Qatar 2022 Strategic Plan 2012-15 and you'll see endless references to how it fits into the "Qatar National Vision 2030".
Reliable local sources put the total figure to be invested in infrastructure over the next decade at £137bn. A rail network, a metro system, a newnetwork of roads and an entire new city are to be constructed over the next eight years.
"Qatar has a firm conviction about the importance of sport in stimulating various types of development that has led them to invest in building huge structures and sports facilities," said the then emir, Sheikh bin Khalifa al-Thani, opening a conference on sport and development in Doha last December.
In June, he handed power to his 33-year-old son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. It will fall to the young Emir to reconcile rampant growth with the growing outrage at working conditions it has engendered. On the flipside, liberal Qataris – including some of the western-educated elite charged with delivering their rulers' ambitions – argue that by hosting global events they are able to effect change in their own backyard.
Yet there is a strong and growing argument that Fifa and the IOC should be stronger in holding to account the countries that host their crown jewel events and use that formidable leverage for good rather than simply to maximise their own profit. The IOC, at least, is starting to acknowledge that it has a responsibility that goes beyond the month it spends in the host country. But in Fifa's case, change is impossible until it puts its own house in order and reforms its culture of back scratching, backhanders, patronage and policy based on personal politics.
Drive 20 minutes north of the gridlocked downtown streets of Doha and you'll find yourself staring out on virgin desert that in nine years' time will have become an entirely new city, with the so-called Lusail Iconic Stadium as the jewel in its crown.
The debate that will dominate the next week as Fifa's leaders gather in Zurich is whether the 2022 World Cup final will be played in Qatar in winter or summer, given the minor inconvenience of June temperatures that reach 50C (122F).. But they will also come under increasing pressure to face up to the implications of the desert being drenched in the blood of the workers employed to provide the stage for it.