Purpose: The purpose of this article is to be a conceptual contribution to the special issue on "Is the Middle East the land of the future?". It aims to provide a holistic picture of the efforts of the Middle East towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), using investments in sports, as a galvanizing force. The paper concludes that, on the balance of probability, this might not be a given.
Design/methodology/approach: The paper is based on personal observations and documentary analysis of numerous studies including those in this special issue.
Findings: Although the Middle East has made "front page" news on most global media platforms-albeit for a variety of reasons, there are signs not to be too optimistic as to whether this geographic entity is, by default, the land of the future.
Research limitations/implications: As a conceptual piece, this article cannot be generalized across the expanse of what constitutes the Middle East. Most of the observations are based on the most boisterous in the region-notably members of the Gulf Cooperation countries (GCC) and Turkey with its rising regional influence.
Practical implications: While the Middle East may have been in the global spotlight, there remain challenges that cannot be so easily wished away. One such is the inability to leverage the investment in sports in a sustainable global partnership that spills over into other MDGs. There are persuasive arguments for deeper integration rather than what seems to be the fragmented sibling rivalry across the Middle East.
Originality/value: This study provides a holistic framework for analyzing a region that has been bedeviled with unrest in recent years; and one that has, to a very large extent, weathered the storm of the Arab Spring and attracted global attention.