Middle East

Qatar promises 'new concept' for World Cup 2022


Questions remain over Qatar's ability to put on a discrimination-free tournament.

The next World Cup may be four years away but Qatar is already pitching to prospective football fans wishing to attend the tournament.

Nasser Al-Khater, the Deputy Secretary-General for Tournament Affairs, says Qatar can offer the world a unique experience. It's the first time the tournament will head to the Middle East in its near-90 year history.

“We want to make sure that we create the right offering for the fans that are going to be visiting Qatar and make sure people really enjoy what Qatar has to offer - sun, beaches, desert experience and a little bit of the Middle Eastern culture and traditions,” he said at a pop-up event in central Moscow promoting Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 event.

The World Cup will pass from Russia, the world’s largest nation, to one that could fit inside Sydney.

Khalid Al-Na’ama from the Qatar Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy says while Qatar will learn from Russia’s experience hosting the tournament, theirs will differ greatly from the 2018 event.

“We need to state this very clearly, the Russian experience is very different and it’s not really fair to compare what happened in Russia with what’s going to happen in Qatar due to the geographical size,” he said.

“In Qatar, we are offering a new concept, which is a compact World Cup. It’s going to enable spectators for the first time in modern history to physically be at more than one match in the same day.”

Tens of thousands of Russian got behind their team at the World Cup
Tens of thousands of Russian got behind their team at the World Cup

Qatar will be keen to build on the World Cup atmosphere created in Russia but questions remain about the tiny oil-rich nation’s ability to host the world’s largest sports event, including over infrastructure, human rights and how it’ll handle the influx of millions of foreign tourists.

Mr Al-Na’ama says the stadium rollout is running according to plan, despite an economic boycott of Qatar last year by other Gulf States following diplomatic tensions.

"So our plan is to host the World Cup in eight stadiums and we’ve completed one of them, which we launched May last year. For the other seven, they’re under construction. We’re launching two stadiums later this year and by 2020 we’re finalising all venues to be ready to host the test event in 2021," he said.

That includes a number of stadiums constructed out of shipping containers that can be dismantled, which Qatar says will improve the overall sustainability of its tournament.

All stadiums will also be air-conditioned, despite the tournament being moved to November and December to avoid the extremely high temperatures of the Qatari summer.

However, Qatar - and FIFA - have been unable to escape pressure over the treatment of the migrant workers building the stadiums. Qatar says it’s now working with the International Labour Organisation to reform and improve conditions but rights groups continue to point to cases of abuse.

In its “Qatar World Cup of Shame” report, Amnesty International says migrants from Bangladesh, India and Nepal are being exploited, with some “being subjected to forced labour”.

Amnesty says: “They can’t change jobs, they can’t leave the country and they often wait months to get paid. Meanwhile, FIFA, its sponsors and the construction companies involved are set to make massive financial gains from the tournament.”

Qatar says the 2022 World Cup is on track despite the economic boycott last year
Qatar says the 2022 World Cup is on track despite the economic boycott last year

There are ongoing concerns from minority fan groups about discrimination, with homosexuality still illegal in Qatar. Nasser Al-Khater wouldn’t be drawn on protections for travelling LGBTIQ+ fans, but said all were welcome at the tournament.

Ahead of the 2018 World Cup, Russia temporarily lifted its controversial gay propaganda law which severely limits public advocacy for gay rights.

Mr Al-Khater made no suggestion the same waiver would apply in four years’ time.

“Whatever laws are in place in Qatar, we hope and expect that people are going to (respect them). Whether it has to do with public displays of affection of any form, or traffic laws or smoking cigarettes in public places, these are all laws that we expect people to respect," he said.

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