For the first time in years, at a moment in time so desperately needed after years of immense separation and strain, the global community has come together and celebrate the spirit of connection, the spirit of competition, the power of determination, the love of the beautiful game.
The FIFA World Cup 2022 has kicked off in Qatar.
For thirty days, and for the first time in the Middle East and Gulf region, the Football World Cup enables people to unite in celebration the biggest sporting event in the world. With immense, glowing pride the host nation invites football’s most formidable athletes to come show their on-the-field prowess as a world of fans and followers watch on from across its magnificent built-for-FWC purpose stadiums, across the host country, and across the globe. The power of sport, and its ability to ignite the hearts of literally billions in a matter of thrilling, exhilarating, often even excruciating, always hope-overflowing seconds, is now on show.
The spirit of the FWC is infectious, it is unavoidable, it is undeniable, whether one is a football follower or not.
Why? Because the FWC is one of our shared world’s most remarkable reflections, and important reminders, of the precious alchemy that occurs when the intense pride of place, and immense glow of the human spirit, come together.
In Qatar, the 2022 FWC marks the first time people of the Middle East and Gulf region are able to show their love for the beautiful game and the way in which it connects them to the global community without politics, without prejudice. Despite all of the controversy leading up the whistle blowing at the start of the tournament’s first match, the world knew that when focus finally shifted to football this was going to be a sensational time of sporting excellence, drama, and dreams coming true. Not only would this be it a moment of a lifetime for athletes and fans alike, but it also moment in history for Qatar. And for the Middle East. The games would act as a force of connectivity of the region to the world, with the world, for the world. Finally.
What was unexpected, however, was the way in which one of FIFA’s the most historic world cup matches ever was about to set the flame of human spirit of the 2022 Games ablaze!
Within 48hrs of the Games kicking off the FWC with absolute courage and class, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Green Falcons took to the field to take on not only the match’s strongly presumed victor, but FWC 2022 tournament champions – Argentina’s celebrated (and sports celebrity-rich) Albiceleste.
For literally millions watching the match the questions preceding kick-off were only two:
- how long would Saudi last?,
- how badly would they be defeated?
Betting was on. The Green Falcons were given a less than 10% chance of victory by the betters. Those in blue and white in stadiums, fan parks and viewing were ready to celebrate their stars. The stats reflect every reason for confidence. Understandably. Messi has always been the magic maker. Argentina is used to being positioned in the final four of FWC tournaments. With 70% possession on the field on the day, expectations were high of fan favourites Argentina leaving Saudi on the field wondering what had happened. How severely had their wings been clipped.
The reverse happened – a moment in the history books for the people of Saudi Arabia.
The Green Falcons took to the field and took on the match with not only dignity and grace, but a burning determination to win, to eclipse expectations, to soar like never before.
As the whistle was blown at full-time, the stadium, and region, erupted in thrilling shock and applause at Saudi’s 2:1 win. It was Argentina that was left standing, numb, wondering what happened. How had this happened??!
On that field, on that day, the beautiful game was more than just a thrilling show of football on fire. It was pure, absolute, heart-squeezing, thrilling, history-making beauty.
But not just beauty because of the game and its historic upset.
Indeed, there is the deeply penetrating, emotionally intoxicating sensation of the immediate, joyous electricity of Saudi victory, the way in which political national divides dropped, political positions, fell away, diplomatic filters faded.
In the moment there were scenes many believed they would never see in their lifetimes (over and above the Kingdom defeating the Argentinians!):
- a stadium full of green and white flags flying high over blue and white,
- fans from across the region – Palestinians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Qataris and so many others, jubilantly singing and dancing with absolute regional pride, celebrating their Saudi brothers,
- global sports commentators cheering the David vs. Goliath story that had just played out in front of the world,
and of course, one of the most remarkable,
- the Emir of Qatar adorned in Saudi’s national colours just over 1 year since the end of a punishing 4-year, billions of dollars blockade by regional neighbours including the Kingdom.
The beauty, the alchemy, of the beautiful game was at work once more.
Importantly, the heroic athletic performance of the Green Falcons will engrave itself in history far beyond sporting records. The magnificence of the moment is about its enduring, glowing legacy. This is a moment which is going to be marked in history of not just global football, but in heart of Saudi’s Vision 2030 – a national growth and development plan shining an enormous light on the Kingdom’s commitment to opening its doors and opening its hearts to the people of the world. Central to the Kingdom’s aspirations is its establishment of a leading position on travel wish lists of people from across the world – people who never before imagined being inspired by, and invited to, Saudi.
22.11.2022 has become a moment where the pride of Saudi Arabia has shown across the globe. On the 2022 FWC stage Saudi loudly and lovingly shouted out, with all of its strength of heart, its invitation to the world to discover Saudi, and Saudis.
Still being referred to as a ‘euphoric’ and ‘historic’ victory over Argentina, it was also heroic.
For anyone blessed to be a part of the 2010 FWC in South Africa, we all know how ‘the Games’ were about so much more than the games. Those 30 days of world class football were a platform for South Africa to showcase to the world not only who and what it was as a place and people, but its rich, unrivalled, often underestimated, and overjudged, spirit of possibility. The 2010 FWC in South Africa helped transform the nation once and for all, for good: defining its identity, embedding its pride, and connecting it to the world. The Games demonstrated the nation’s newfound energy, unity and capability – hosting the world’s largest sporting event becoming a mirror the New South Africa’s fierce determination to rise as a nation, while at the same time expressing with humility its gratitude to the world for the opportunity. https://anitamendiratta.com/mega-events-in-praise-of-unsung-heroes/
Saudi’s win on the 2022 playing field, as with South Africa’s win in hosting the 2010 Games, reflects to the world what Saudi is as a people, as a spirit, and in as an invitation to the world to understand who they are and how much they have to offer. Just like in South Africa in 2010, in Qatar in 2022 Saudi demonstrated to all its simple, pure humanity, its spirit of possibility, and it’s commitment to the global community.
Which is why it is so important that to remember that mega events are never only about the moment on the field or the duration of the event. The FWC is never about one month of football. Nor is EXPO about four months of global exhibition. Or the Olympic and Paralympic Games about a month of celebration of athletics at its best.
It’s about legacy.
It’s about the power of legacy to swiftly, powerfully and respectfully shift the image of a nation in the eyes, minds and hearts of the world. https://anitamendiratta.com/its-all-about-the-afterglow/
However this FWC concludes, whomever takes home the trophy, wherever Saudi ends up on the total tournament tables, the Green Falcons proudly soar at the top of the tournament leader board for greatest upsets of the 2022 Games.
That is the magic of megaevents. They are never simply about the event itself. They are about legacy of identity – identity in the eyes of the world, and of one’s own.
In 2010 the FWC legacy was not only how the world looked at South Africa and South Africans, it was about how South Africans looked at their fellow South Africans. As equals. As champions. As one.
As the 2022 FWC continues, with matches knowing out team after team, there is no matching how the region and world will now look at Saudi, and Saudis. And critically, how Saudis will look at one another, stand together in remarkable historic pride.
Look, look down there!
Can you feel it – the audible pounding of your heart?
Can you hear it – the silence?
Look what’s happening!!
FWC 2022 – you may not remember the final score when the final whistle was blown declaring the tournament’s winning team.
You may not remember who kicked their team of gold.
But you’ll never, never forget where you were when….x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2022
We see it all around us, and more importantly, we can feel it.
The runways are lighting up. The world is opening up. Things are looking up. Finally!
Travel itineraries are reaching out to Africa. And Asia. And the Americas. And all places in between. It is a worldwide scramble for travel, and it’s exciting. Wish lists are turning into bookings. Virtual hugs are being turned into tight, real squeezes. Missed milestones are being turned into shared memory-making in one place, not on one screen.
Travel anywhere, whenever one wants, has, for a world of grounded travellers, long been a dream, even if long lines at many airports are a nightmare. Not to mention the enduring risks of cancelled flights, lost baggage, long waits, and sky-high airfares.
The travel turbulence can, and is, being pushed through. There is no stopping travel’s return. Millions upon millions are going, now. They are getting on with their planning, their boarding, their living again. Don’t even think of getting in their way!
The labels for this global travel scramble are growing: ‘pent up demand’, ‘revenge travel’, ‘bounce back’, ‘back to normal’, ‘resilience in action’.
However diverse the terms, whatever we call it, the message is clear: travel is back. That word – ‘back’ – is one which can easily be understood as a very good thing, a sign of welcome recovery. Recovery is indeed underway, green shoots are dotting the landscape. But seeing the increasingly impatient, irritated, ‘I’-centric crowds, clearly all is not good.
Why? Because those little green shoots, at first a welcome sign, are now a warning sign.
The warning? We, the world’s travellers, are at risk of going back to our old ways in this new world of travel.
As a world of travellers exhausted from 2+ years of waiting, missing, and dreaming are scrambling to book holidays, board flights, and be with loved ones once more, they are trampling over the green shoots popping up on the road to recovery. We see it all around us, and importantly, we feel it, a growing sense of ‘Oh dear, here we go again’.
As the world is reopening, the world is forgetting. We are forgetting what was once our shared focus, our shared agenda, our shared hope, for over two years. We are forgetting what Mother Nature gave us all, everywhere, all at the same time: over two years to rethink how we view travel and tourism – the privilege of it, the opportunity of it, the blessing of it. As a global community of sector leaders, we rethought our championing of it, duty to it, responsibility for it. We talked about the risks of returning to old ways: over tourism, overcrowding, overuse of resources, overextending the networks that allow us to connect, overstaying our welcome in communities. Importantly, we reflected on our undervaluing of frontline experience delivery workers in travel who are the future of travel, and our underserving sustainability’s call to action.
We committed to not repeating our old ways.
Sadly, however, it appears we are losing our way. Again.
We see that the desire to recover travel momentum is turning into the desire to recover lost earnings, to make up for lost time, to leave behind the pains of the recent past.
We see wide open natural environments becoming congested, photo-ready sunset spots, again.
We see houses of faith turning into tourist attractions, again.
We see places that should be respectfully quiet ringing with the noise of conversation, again.
We see sacred spaces being coming spots for the perfect selfie, again.
We see members of local communities starting to get that look in their eye as their streets buzz with strangers stopping to take photos of them without stopping to think to ask permission.
One can argue it is human nature – after years of being deprived of the world, travellers are yearning to venture out once more. They want it. They need it. They deserve it.
And oh, how dearly, deeply they have missed it.
The missing, however, does not make the madness acceptable. The missing does not make the invasion acceptable. The missing does not make bad manners spending money a good thing. The missing does not make the stomping on green shoots acceptable.
We as a global travel industry, and as a global community of travellers, need to be careful. We need to be very careful that in our quest to make up for all that was lost in the recent pandemic past – time, touch, dreams, desires, discoveries, meetings, memories, and of course money – we re-embed bad behaviours that will cost us the blessing of the chance to co-create a stronger, smarter, more sustainable, more grateful future.
The battle is on: human nature vs. Mother Nature.
In our minds we may wish to boldly think that we will prevail. In our hearts, however, we know that in this battle, in the future as in the past, Mother Nature will always win. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2022
For 10 days it was as if she and Mother Nature were in concert…
When the skies needed to shine, they did,
When the raindrops, the tears, needed to fall, they did.
When the rainbows needed to be seen, felt, they were.
When warmth needed to be felt, it was.
When nights needed to be forgiving, they were.
When her presence needed to linger just that much longer…it did.
Over 10 days of national mourning,
those who loved her,
directly or indirectly,
knowing her or simply knowing of her,
focused on her in union
10 days that were not about pageantry,
not about celebrity,
not even about royalty.
They were about dignity,
They were about farewell to Her Majesty,
and, it felt, to all those that were lost over the past 2+ years,
all that which was lost over the past 2+ years,
all that was,
For millions, billions, lining the streets, watching the screens,
across the world.
And now, in the days that follow,
the clouds are gathering,
the flowers are withering,
the horses are resting,
the streets are buzzing,
the news stories are shifting.
The work of the land continues.
But for those 10 days, those 10 special days,
her family, her people, and the world, paused,
as if somehow she knew.
Rest very peacefully now, Ma’am.
And thank you. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2022
Sometimes we only realise someone has left the room when the strength of their presence is revealed by the enormity of their absence.
Now is one of those times.
30 08 2022 – in one shared moment global newswires worldwide conveyed one shared message as breaking news: Mikhail Gorbachev has died.
A mighty pillar holding up the ideals of the free world has fallen.
He leaves behind an array of titles. Mixed, yes, especially at home. From a global standpoint, however, his titles reflect tireless commitment to life’s work, and life’s example:
former President of the Soviet Union,
celebrated Nobel Peace Prize winner (1990),
architect of the end of the Cold War,
warmly welcomed ally of leaders of the new world,
child of Communism,
champion of change,
advocate of global community,
political and economic reformist,
ever-accompanied by the love of his life,
ever-committed to the future safety, stability and possibility of his beloved Russia.
In the opening words of salute to the late leader, Foreign Affairs magazine said it perfectly:
“Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, who Russian media reports say died today at age 91 after a long illness, was a rare bright spot in the tragic, grim, blood-splattered history of Russia. Even at his worst moments, he exuded warmth and sparkled with optimism and humor. A passionate political animal, he refused to cling to power for power’s sake.”
Comrade, Confidante, Companion.
And yet sadly, so sadly, today we see – and feel – such loss when we look to the current state of President Gorbachev’s vision:
Global contrast, where once there was connection,
Conflict, where once there was collaboration,
Corruption of power, where once there was courage,
Cries for pain, where once there was compassion.
Collapse of legacy where once there were cheers of hope.
Back then, when first President Gorbachev sought to create a new world for the people of the former Soviet Union, the difference from that of the old was black & white.
Today, as President Putin seeks to create a new world for the people of Russia, the difference is just as stark, though the colours have changed – today they are yellow & blue.
Whatever the future may hold, today as the world whispers ‘goodbye’, we thank you for all you gave us in the past.
Rest well, dear Sir. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2022
We all have our limits. We all have a line where our body and/or our mind, and/or our hearts just have to say ‘Stop, just stop – I’m done!’
Over the past two+ years, those limits have been stretched further and further and further.
And now, as the world opens, people are realising how hard it is to continue to put on a brave face despite all the promise ahead.
Our shared world has indeed changed. The landscape is wider and brighter. The outlook is better.
Ambitions are bolder,
Forecasts are stronger,
Travels are wider.
Family and friends are nearer.
Handshakes are firmer,
Hugs are closer.
And yet somehow it seems harder than thought.
Something unexpected has happened – is happening.
Just when we thought the reopening of the world would make things easier, providing a rush of energy and excitement, a release from pressures of recent past, a pause to the fears and concerns, a chance to breathe deeply and freely again,
somehow it feels as though now, in these midyear months of 2022 as planning medium- to long-term resumes with schedules buzzing with busyness,
milestone reunions, remembrances and celebrations being confirmed regardless of time that has passed,
‘live’ business being booked beyond screens on our devices,
travel and social muscles being restrengthened,
professional wardrobes being removed from storage,
border, budget and before-travel testing constraints being removed,
all reflections of confidence around all that is to be gained once more,
somehow short-term the focus is shifting,
to what has been lost.
Time to think, time to reflect.
And importantly, time to rest, time to restore, time to care, for those loved and oneself.
Everyone has faced loss to varying degrees. Lives, livelihoods, loved ones, loved ways of life. There is no need to compare. COVID-19 excluded no-one from loss of time and loss of touch, not to mention loss of temper and loss of tolerance.
Which is why it makes complete sense that as much has been re-set in our COVID-reshaped world, lingering subconscious markers incl.,
- mid-year meaning mid-term/mid-summer holidays,
- September meaning ‘back to school’
- return thereafter marking the countdown to end of another 12 months,
are embedding the needs of now, vividly revealing how desperately we need a change of place,
finding a new space,
re-finding a feeling of grace,
It’s all about finding that place that allows us to just stop, a place to quietly reflect, renew, re-energise, and hopefully rejoice, ready for all that is ahead.
Which is why ultimately we all realise, deep in our hearts, whether we are practitioners in the industry or not, that it is travel that is vital, and invaluable, to our wellbeing.
Global grounding has shown that travel, around the corner or around the world, is a necessity. For wellbeing. Of ourselves, of others.
Our ability to get away, to find that new space not just in the world, but in our minds and hearts, to face our respective worlds once more, is why travel firmly remains not just a force for good, but a force for our own good. Demands on our time, energy, focus, funding, faith, are only growing. To fail to pause, if able, would be a fundamental risk to longterm personal recovery, Now, in what feels a brief, very brief, calm before the intense, year-end global travel recovery storm (heartbreaking, current midyear travel mobility and service challenges aside across airlines, airports and other T&T links in the chain), is the moment.
Wherever one chooses to go, just go.
And for the moment, as much as your heart and mind need to move forward beyond these times of intense pressure, despite their hope-filled pleasure, let go.
The gap between then and now is widening. The ability to have faith again in the world that awaits is growing.
You are safe. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2022