Serious concerns raised over Qatar's World Cup preparations

A number of key concerns have been raised over Qatar's ability to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Photo / Getty
A number of key concerns have been raised over Qatar's ability to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Photo / Getty

Six years today the eyes of the world will be focused on Qatar as the 2022 World Cup kicks off on November 21 in the tiny gas-rich nation.

Controversy has dogged Qatar since it won the bid in the first place and with temperatures regularly topping 50C during the summer months, the World Cup will take place in a host country's winter for the first time, with the final set to be played on December 18 - Qatar National Day, The Sun reports.

"Qatar Deserves the Best" is the slogan now plastered on hoardings concealing building sites for the new Doha metro project as cranes dominate the skyline. Although the joke among local ex-pats is that a more apt slogan would be "Qatar Buys the Best". Nor is controversy likely to go away.

While there is no suggestion the tournament will not be staged here, FIFA is already on a collision course with the local organising committee over the sale of alcohol.

The Sun has also learned concerns about hooliganism at Euro 2016 involving England and Russian supporters among others in Marseille has led to Qatar football chiefs talking to French security bosses with the prospect of special courts set up for supporters who fall out of line.

And with the global recession impacting even one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, plans for 12 stadia in the original bid are set to be scaled back to eight - the minimum required - with the possibility that one may even be funded with private money not Government funding.

Five are currently under construction with Khalifa International Stadium the first stadium to be completed early next year - mainly because it will also host the 2019 World Athletics Championships.

But other projects are being abandoned or scaled down, including an enormous engineering feat in Doha involving two arches near the shore of the Arabian Sea with a visitors centre suspended in the air.

There is also concern that there will not be enough hotel rooms in the capital Doha - the focus of the tournament in a country mostly covered by desert - and in a nation used to endless bureaucracy and red-tape that FIFA will need to keep a close watch to ensure work is finished on time.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the chief executive of Qatar's local organising committee, has gone on record stating he is against the sale of alcohol at stadiums only to backtrack during a FIFA inspection by Secretary General Fatma Samoura two weeks ago that it was a "personal opinion."

That may have something to do with the fact FIFA sponsors such as Budweiser might eventually step in and insist alcohol is sold inside stadiums.

Al Thawadi has since said there will be alcohol at the tournament.

Al Thawadi, who also wants to create alcohol-free fan zones, said: "There will be no alcohol consumption on the streets, squares and public places and that is final.

"Availability of alcohol during the tournament will commensurate with our customs and traditions.

"Personally, I'm against the provision of alcohol in stadiums. Our goal is to narrow alcohol consumption to specific places far away from public spaces.

"Our country has a very clear position on alcohol and laws and traditions that are not to be compromised."

Al Thawadi also revealed: "We've signed a ten year agreement with Interpol and a number of security experts have been brought on board.

"There have been different discussions and visits the last one being Euro 2016 where the deputy director of security for Euro 2016 in Marseille is now part of our team for Qatar 2022."

Qatar has previously said that 2022 spending will not be affected by austerity measures and budget cuts amid lower global oil and gas prices.

But Al Thawadi also admitted last week that private funding is now being considered to build Ras Abu Aboud stadium - near Doha airport - and training pitches. The venue is one of three for which designs have still yet to be revealed.

And the lack of interest in the national team itself remains another problem as I found on a previous visit two years ago.

Fatma Samoura's FIFA visit two weeks ago took in Qatar v Russia, a friendly between the next two controversial World Cup hosts. The crowd, just over 4000. She was probably one of the few women there too.

- news.com.au

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