Awarding to Qatar the 2022 FIFA World Cup seems a perfect decision as the oil-rich state has all the potential and will-power to stage the showpiece in the most befitting manner.
With less than seven years to go before the world’s top players converge on Doha in the winter of 2022, the event’s organisers appear energetic in preparing the stage.
In the recent past, Qatar had to face harsh criticism from international media for allegedly violating labour laws. But now it has almost removed the stigma by introducing and implementing labour reforms.
Most of the world media is now convinced that choosing Qatar for hosting the world’s most popular event was not a mistake. It was the Congress meeting of the international sports press association (AIPS) in Doha from February 7-11 which provided the World Cup organisers with a perfect chance to show what they were doing and what they had done for staging the event.
I am convinced that Qataris are capable of hosting the tournament in style. We were amazed to see the labour city in Mesaimir, which has 55 state-of-the-art residential complexes which can house up to 100,000 workers.
A fine hospital has also been constructed and seven qualified doctors with their paramedic staff are delivering their services. The labour city has a mall, a cinema and the second largest mosque in Doha.
Guy Sitruk, a veteran French journalist, asked Qatar critics to come in and visit Doha. "What we see now is quite different. It is different perception that refutes all media allegations made against Qatar," Sitruk said.
"To the best of knowledge, this labour city with the facilities everyone sees is the best in the entire world. I guess the government puts in tremendous efforts and investments to improve the living conditions for the workers of the 2022 World Cup stadiums," he said.
"My perception is now different and I trust Qatar will deliver and it would be an ideal world cup in 2022," Sitruk said.
Diego Tias, the editor of Brazali’s Globo network, said he was surprised to see the sporting facilities and the high living conditions in the labour city. "It was really a good surprise," he said.
The reports received by the press agencies in Brazil about Qatar 2022 World Cup labour conditions are perplexing, but everything is different here, he said.
"We heard dozens of negative stories about working conditions for workers in Qatar but we never heard about this labour city. I guess there is something missing in between," he said. "What we have seen is amazing."
Michael Calvin, a journalist working for the Sunday Mirror, said: "The labour city is one way to help address the negative perception. The labour city we have seen is the first step and it is a good step."
Interaction with workers from Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Pakistan revealed they were happy with the facilities they are being provided.
"We don’t have any problem. We have a good residential complex, a cafeteria, hospital, mosque and a clean environment. It’s all okay," a Bangladeshi worker said.
Qatar was seen intensely engaged in the construction and expansion of various stadiums which will be completed well in advance.
All these stadiums have been designed so beautifully that the fans from across the world will enjoy witnessing matches of the world’s most popular event.
Qatar is yet to get from FIFA the final input about how many venues would be required for staging the World Cup but currently they are working on eight stadiums. Built in 1976, Doha’s Khalifa International Stadium, which is also called the Olympic Stadium, is being upgraded. Around 11,000 seats are being added to the venue’s eastern side and 40,000 people will be able to witness matches at this venue.
Its capacity will be enhanced to 56,000 after the World Cup in order to meet the demand of the Olympics which Qatar may host in future.
Al-Khalifa Stadium, which is located in the Aspire Zone, will also host the 2019 IAAF World Championships. A highly expensive athletics track will be laid there soon after its expansion work is completed.
The venue will have a sports museum and a highly-advanced cooling system will also be installed in it. "The cooling system is part of the plan," Khalid Al Jumaily, the Community Engagement Manager, also monitoring the construction of the stadiums, told ‘The News on Sunday’’.
The 15 lush green football grounds of the Aspire Academy can also be used for practice during the competitions.
Al-Wakra Stadium will have 40,000 capacity for the World Cup which will be reduced to 20,000 after the Qatar 2022.
Located at the north of Doha, Al Bayt Stadium, will be completed by 2018. It will have 60,000 capacity for the World Cup which will be reduced to 35,000 after the mega event.
Located in the Education City, Qatar Foundation Stadium will have 40,000 capacity for World Cup and will be ready by 2019. However, the capacity will be reduced to 30,000.
Al-Rayan Stadium will have capacity for 40,000 spectators, which will be curtailed to 20,000 after the showpiece event.
This venue was demolished for re-construction as the organisers thought that its up-gradation would cost them more than what they would need for its reconstruction.
Around 90 percent of the rubble was recycled for further use after its demolition.
These venues will be directly linked with Doha Metro, a gigantic project, in order to make it easier for the fans from around the world to get sharp and well-facilitated access to the venues.
As many as 34 Express Ways are in the plan. Out of them 14 are under construction, three have been completed, 11 are being designed, while six are in the procurement stage.
Doha’s Hamad International Airport, which is considered one of the best airports in the world, will also be upgraded to enable it to cater to the rush of passengers during the World Cup.
To ensure transparency in all these projects a four-tier audit system has been put in place. Under the 2010 Workers Welfare Programme, 5000 workers will have an opportunity to witness the final of the World Cup.
Under the 2030 Qatar Vision plan, launched in 2010, ambitious plans are being implemented in order to make the World Cup a huge success.
Qatar has already hosted many mega world events in Doha. Besides hosting the World Indoor Athletics Championships and 2006 Asian Games, Qatar has also hosted World Championships in handball, boxing, paralympic athletics and the 2006 Asian Games.
The World Bowling Championships and World Artistic Gymnastics Championships will be held in Doha this year.
Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy has also launched a project to communicate with Qataris students abroad to keep them updated on the ongoing preparations to host the event so that they can act as ambassadors for Qatar and for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In a nutshell, Qatar deserves to be the first Arab country to host FIFA World Cup. I hope the new FIFA president will also fully support Qatar in its endeavour.