Q: The Arabian Gulf Cup and FIFA Club World Cup were recently held in Qatar – how important were these events when it comes to preparing for 2022?
A: Every football event that we host and organise is an important milestone for us to practice, test our plans and that’s not different for the Arabian Gulf Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup that were played at the end of 2019. They were two very invaluable test events for us, they were played back to back, so that was 23 days of football — which is only five days less than the FIFA World Cup in 2022. We were able to test a lot of the plans that were put down on paper, all of the operational plans — whether they’re within the venue, outside of the venue, we were able to test our transportation plans, working together hand in hand with the security. And the lessons learned for us were just immense.
Q: What were the main lessons learned from the Gulf Cup and Club World Cup in terms of security and fan experience?
A: Well, luckily, we had a lot of fans that attended both events, we had around 50,000 fans travel from abroad for the FIFA Club World Cup, we were able to test our first Fan Zone. There were a lot of questions being asked about the success of fan zones, we learned a lot from the Fan Zone that we put in place. One thing we want to make sure is to make our fan zones bigger for the next events. We’re going to have a lot of FIFA Fan Fests during the World Cup in 2022, we’re going to have a lot of fan activation areas in 2022. So it’s very important for us to gauge fans — their experiences, the transportation to getting to these fan activation areas, is it easy? And one thing we need to make sure is that they are very accessible to them. Working hand in hand with security, we don’t see that there is a difference, we’re one organising body, security is very important to make sure everything is safe and secure for the fans, they need to be fully integrated within our operational plans. And it worked very well in the past two events.
Q: This summer we have the Copa America, Euro 2020 and Tokyo Olympics – how important is it for Qatar to continue to learn from major events like these?
A: In terms of gaining experience from other major events around the world, we’ve been sending team members ever since 2012, the Euros that happened in Poland and Ukraine, we’ve sent people to the Euros in 2016, World Cup 2014 in Brazil, World Cup 2018 in Russia — in fact we’ve sent over 180 people to the World Cup in Russia — which was a great learning experience for many people that have been able to apply their skills here. So this coming summer 2020, we’ve got the Olympics in Tokyo, we’ve got Copa America in Argentina and Colombia, we’ve also got the Euros, so we will be sending a big contingent of people to all these events to make sure we also capitalise on all the previous experience that we’ve gained. And as it has shown us in the past, what people gain and what they learn in these events is something that will really benefit us going forward.
Q: It’s been a year since FIFA and the host country started working together as a joint venture towards 2022 – how has that helped with tournament preparation?
A: I believe that the best preparation for people working well together is during the tournaments, and we could see that slowly we’ve been integrating with members of FIFA. We started off in the Arabian Gulf Cup, furthermore, we cemented that at the FIFA Club World Cup. And going forward, any major event that happens here in Qatar, the football tournament will be handle predominantly by the JV that has been set-up between us and FIFA. And we believe that it is the best model going forward for preparations for the World Cup in 2022.
Q: How does it feel for you to be 1,000 days away from kick-off?
A: For me, I’ve been on this project for over 10 years now. I started in May of 2009 — we were still in the bidding stages, then we won the bid in December of 2010. And I remember feeling that there is still 12 years to go, and to know that we’re 1,000 days to go — there’s a certain excitement, certain anxiety, we see the plans coming into place. We’re very proud of where we’ve come in terms of infrastructure. In terms of stadiums we’re on track on all of that. But, when it comes to getting closer and closer to the World Cup, its mixed emotions — it’s a bag of mixed emotions. (SC)
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