*The football extravaganza will be a unifying force that will bring people together Please use the pullquotes at the end
Qatar is committed to organising an affordable FIFA World Cup in 2022 for the fans keeping in mind the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the world, Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) Secretary-General HE Hassan al-Thawadi has said.
“It is, perhaps for the first time in recent modern history, where all economic activities have come to a stop,” al-Thawadi said in an Leaders Week Direct webinar Wednesday. “It has had a huge impact on lives and livelihoods. All talks of recovery are very unclear. It might even affect the ability of fans from around the world to afford travelling and celebrate the World Cup and the other sports events.”
He added: “We are in discussion with experts, hosts of other big sports events, and planning out for different scenarios. This (World Cup 2022) will be an affordable tournament, we want everyone to come and enjoy. During the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup, we engaged with the clubs and the fans, ensured everything was as affordable as possible in terms of flights and accommodation.
“We are committed to ensure an affordable World Cup for the fans, and at the same time strike a balance to ensure that it is functional with the suppliers, and other stakeholders.”
Al-Thawadi also said that the 2022 football extravaganza will be a unifying force that will bring people together. “Let’s celebrate collectively as humanity,” he said.
He elaborated: “I know it sounds very idealistic but Covid-19 has made us realize that humans are social creatures and the mental health impact of not being able to engage is huge. Yes, we can communicate via technology but everyone misses the human interaction. We have been saying since the beginning that this World Cup will bring people together, and we know after Covid-19 we need that. Hopefully we would have beaten the pandemic and I hope we can celebrate collectively in 2022.”
Worldwide, the Covid-19 pandemic has seen almost five million confirmed cases with a little over 323,000 deaths.
For some countries, who are due to host some of the biggest sports events in the world, the pandemic would have been a setback. But Qatar, despite almost a three-year long illegal blockade, has forged its way ahead steadily.
“We (have) continued work at a much slower pace, obviously, but we are ahead of time. By the end of this year, six of our stadiums are expected to be ready,” al-Thawadi said.
He elaborated on the measures taken by Qatar and the SC in the light of the pandemic. “Our first concern was obviously the health and safety of our workers at the stadium projects. In coordination with the Ministry of Public Health, we isolated our at-risk workers, anyone over the age of 55, those with other health conditions, conducted awareness courses about social distancing and immunity-boosting nutrition, we disinfected work sites.
“The workers continue to get paid even if they have been isolated from work sites, or are undergoing treatment.
“We also focused on the long-term impact, like the mental health and emotional impact. We held mental health awareness sessions, developed an app with a partner, which has videos and other material on how to deal with anxiety and stress, besides having a hotline in different languages.”
Al-Thawadi added, “Ironically, the illegal blockade that was imposed on Qatar three years ago was a blessing in disguise. We became self-reliant, resilient, effective, which made us much better in dealing with Covid as a nation. Now, we are, I think, number 13 on food security sufficiency globally; regionally, we are number one. We are making millions of masks locally, and even ventilators. It (the blockade) is not something we are happy about but it has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.”
Talking about the effect of the blockade on sport, al-Thawadi said, “We hosted the Arabian Gulf Cup, and every member nation participated. At the final, we had 2000 Bahraini fans in Doha to see their team win the tournament for the first time in their history. We bring people from the region to come and volunteer with us. There is passion and interest in the region for the World Cup in Qatar.
“I hope the blockading nations can remove the restrictions on their own people; there are no restrictions from Qatar, but they have to allow their people to come.”
Talking about how the Covid-19 has made SC adapt its programmes and its legacy initiatives, he said, “Generation Amazing is our legacy programme, which is football for development. Since Covid, the team has launched online programmes with our ambassadors, talking about experiences. There is Josoor Institute with a purpose of developing skills and expertise in sports and hospitality sectors in the region. But now, after going online, it is reaching more people. Also, workers' welfare, Qatar is one of the leading countries in the region on worker reforms. There is work still to be done, but we have moved ahead leaps and bounds.”