Qatar claims success of WC test as fans open their eyes to Doha


DOHA: The man in charge of organising the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has labelled this month’s club equivalent a “great success” as a test event but admitted the Gulf state has plenty still to learn over the next three years leading up to the controversial tournament.

Hassan al Thawadi, secretary general of the supreme committee for the World Cup, also insisted the tiny country will be able to handle an influx of huge numbers of supporters and sought to reassure fans used to western culture that they will be made to feel welcome. “Our plans were previously theoretical and today they are being applied on the ground. Overall I think the Club World Cup has been a great success as a test event,” Al Thawadi told media in Doha ahead of Saturday’s final between Liverpool and Flamengo. “There are three more years to go to learn, so I have no doubt that by 2022 we will be ready.”

Al Thawadi was speaking at Education City, one of eight proposed venues for 2022. The 40,000-seat stadium — which will be partially dismantled after 2022 — was due to be inaugurated during the Club World Cup, but delays postponed its opening. In contrast, the city’s sparkling new metro network has performed well after fully opening earlier this month. Crowds of exuberant fans of Flamengo, Esperance or Liverpool armed with free tickets have rubbed shoulders with Qataris and expat commuters on the plush system. While the metro, and the streets above, have hardly been overcrowded, it may be a different story in the city come the World Cup, with organisers expecting at least 1.2 million supporters in Doha in 2022. “We are building the capacity necessary so that by 2022 we have that in place, we are improving our efficiency in terms of transportation, ensuring there is enough fan engagement events, and so on, spread throughout the country, so there is no congestion in one place,” said Al Thawadi. FIFA president Gianni Infantino — who inherited the decision to hand the tournament to Qatar from predecessor Sepp Blatter — is upbeat about preparations, with Qatar also staging the recent Gulf Cup and hosting next year’s Club World Cup. “These are small events but important events,” he said, adding: “The state of advancement of the work here is unique.” Elsewhere, traffic remains congested on Doha’s roads, and authorities have announced plans to resurrect the Sharq Crossing, a mega-project that will use bridges and tunnels to link the airport, financial district and tourist attractions, bypassing the often gridlocked coast road. Organisers have tested a 5,000-capacity fan zone where supporters have been able to enjoy a drink in a country where alcohol is not readily available.

There has also been concern about how LGBT fans will be welcomed, although Paul Amann, of Liverpool’s LGBT supporters’ club, Kop Outs, told AFP he was “satisfied their approach is to provide an ‘everyone is welcome’ ethos that does include respect, albeit through privacy.” Al Thawadi stuck to that theme as he insisted all fans would be welcome, but admitted: “Public displays of affection, regardless of sexual orientation, are not part of our culture and we ask people to respect that fact.”

Reactions

Post a Comment

0 Comments