* 32,000 government security and 17,000 private security personnel have participated in preparatory programmes
* Preparations under way to hold Watan 2 exercise in October
* We are counting a lot on co-operation of citizens and residents in making tournament a success by adhering to traffic guidelines
* Everyone is welcome in Doha, including those coming with different backgrounds or beliefs
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Security Operations Commander HE Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani has stressed that the safety and security of all participants of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, including national teams, fans and visitors, is one of the Safety & Security Operations Committee (SSOC)'s main priorities, highlighting that Qatari fans, citizens and residents are the committee's main partners in ensuring that the tournament is the safest possible and most secure in the history of all sporting events.
"In line with the security strategy developed for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the tournament's Safety & Security Operations Committee implemented a series of plans, programmes, training courses and joint exercises to raise the capabilities of the security staff. One of the most important programmes was the Sports Crowd Security and Safety Programme, which was specifically designed to train government and private security."
HE Sheikh Khalifa noted that the programme included several training sessions, such as Stadium Security and Safety, Security Sense, Crowd Management, Human Rights, First Aid and Co-operation with the Crowds. Other programmes included Tournament Policies and Procedures, which covered facility evacuation simulations and training on how to deal with possible scenarios, and were conducted in co-operation with specialised experts from Europol. These programmes went beyond what is required by FIFA.
In total, 32,000 individuals from government security and 17,000 individuals from private security have participated in these programmes.
"To further increase our readiness, we have tested the security plans by implementing several simulations, in office and on the ground, the most recent of which was the organisation of the Watan (Homeland) exercise in November 2021, with the participation of numerous civil and military entities and forces from outside Qatar, as well as FIFA stakeholders," he added.
HE Sheikh Khalifa said the exercise included implementing scenarios designed to simulate various tasks and activities that will be taking place during the tournament, adding that the scenarios are aligned with the competencies of the parties participating in the exercise and that the aim of the exercise was to ensure operational readiness and co-ordination among all parties.
"This exercise has succeeded in enhancing the integration of roles between civil and military entities. This was achieved by activating appropriate command and control processes and communication plans, measuring the speed of response to emergencies, testing the availability of various resources, and piloting security plans based on the desired goals, according to specific performance indicators that aim to make this tournament the safest possible and most secure of all sporting events in the world," he added.
HE Sheikh Khalifa announced, during the remarks he made to QNA, that preparations are under way to hold the Watan 2 exercise in October, which will include various scenarios in different locations. The exercise aims to further improve performance and ensure high levels of internal communication between civil and military stakeholders and the participating forces from outside Qatar.
He stressed that the various sporting events Qatar has hosted in the past few years have been real tests regarding the readiness and preparedness of cadres, stadiums, apparatuses and modern security technologies that will be used during the World Cup.
"The tournament's Safety & Security Operations Committee has also evaluated the practicality of the various plans and programmes by taking full advantage of these previous events, as we focused on their outcomes and the lessons learned to avoid any negative experiences and amplify the positive ones. This interactive process has been put in place to ensure the overall security of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022," he added.
On international co-operation, he said the "committee works in an integrated manner with its regional and international partners to ensure a smooth exchange of information and expertise in the security domains. In this regard, agreements and MoUs have been signed with various countries and international organisations such as Interpol, the International Centre for Sport Security and Europol. We have made all these agreements because co-operation with various international specialised police organisations and agencies is invaluable to implement security best practices across all aspects of the tournament."
On co-operation with friendly nations, he said "first, we must emphasise that Qatar is home to highly qualified and trained police and security competencies and can ensure the security of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and all relevant activities. We also engaged other international security forces to further exchange and implement expertise - our collective aim is security excellence.
"We have signed several security agreements, MoUs and memorandums of co-operation with countries who have specialised forces to provide support in securing the event if needed. These forces will work under a Qatari security command to ensure a unified effort that adheres to the established security plans," HE added.
"As for evaluating our co-operation with security forces from countries, we greatly appreciate their full enthusiasm to make this tournament successful. That was evident in their participation in exercises, readiness tests and security simulations, such as the Last Mile Security Conference for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and Watan exercise," he noted. "We will continue collaborating with everyone to ensure the best organisation for this important international sports event. We are still receiving requests from different countries expressing their desire to participate in securing the tournament to enrich their own domestically-hosted events by expanding their experiences, expertise and knowledge of managing major sporting events."
On the biggest outcomes of the Last Mile Security Conference, which saw wide international participation, HE Sheikh Khalifa said: "As I mentioned, it is paramount that we co-operate with multiple countries and establish partnerships with security organisations specialising in major events; the Last Mile Security Conference held in May 2022 was a testament to that. Liaison officers from the International Police Co-ordination Centre (IPCC) also participated in this conference."
He said the IPCC is an operations room supervised by the tournament's Safety & Security Operations Committee. It is equipped with the latest advanced technology and aims to exchange information among representatives of the international police services and Qatar during the World Cup. The IPCC was first activated with the launch of the FIFA Club World Cup, which was held in Doha in 2019, and the participating parties include countries whose national teams qualified for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. The overall objective was to solidify co-ordination and the smooth exchange of information between representatives of the international police services, Qatar and Interpol.
"That is why during the conference, we stressed that security is an integrated process that can only be achieved by joint efforts. Therefore, numerous documents were presented at the conference to help improve the exchange of expertise to ensure hosting a safe international tournament," he added.
He noted that the final day of the conference saw the signing of an agreement between Qatar and Interpol to extend co-operation for Project Stadia, which was established by Interpol in 2012 with funding and support from Qatar, to support countries wishing to host major sporting events. There was also a joint declaration by Qatar and several countries participating in the conference to establish the International Police Co-operation Centre.
Responding to a question on dealing with rowdy crowds, HE Sheikha Khalifa said as soon as Qatar won the bid to organise the tournament, various committees were set up, including the SSOC, which began to develop training, qualification and readiness programmes and sports crowd management to deal with all potential security threats, including riots.
At the same time, he stressed the importance on close and effective co-operation with all countries participating in the tournament. "From our side, as entities concerned with the tournament's security, we are co-ordinating with the Ministry of Public Health to guarantee a successful tournament in terms of all organisational health and security aspects," he added.
His Excellency stressed that the 2022 World Cup Safety & Security Operations Committee considers the security and safety of fans an utmost priority, adding that the committee aims to achieve a safe experience for all fans from the moment they arrive in Qatar until the end of the tournament. "As already known, the tournament's Safety & Security Operations Committee includes specialised security units, including those specialised in crowd management and riot control, to ensure safety throughout the tournament," he added.
On the designated authorities' preparations to deal with potential traffic jams, His Excellency noted that "Qatar has seen great and rapid development across several areas, especially in infrastructure, from roads and public transport to World Cup facilities, which will be fully prepared to host this event. In addition to modern and rapid means of transport, such as the inter-city Metro and various other facilities, we also have rapid transit buses that will help reduce any traffic jam that may occur on the roads leading to sports facilities, as well as residential and tourist areas. Having said that, traffic jams do occur even in the most developed countries, especially during such global mega-events."
HE Sheikh Khalifa said the SSOC, through the Traffic Management Unit, has detailed plans related to traffic safety in co-ordination with the relevant authorities.
"We are counting a lot on the co-operation of citizens and residents, who can help the tournament be a success by adhering to traffic guidelines and directives to ensure smooth traffic flow during the tournament. This contributes to strengthening organising operations while also reducing traffic congestion during the event," he added.
On dealing with fans' different cultural backgrounds, His Excellency highlighted what His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said during a visit to Germany in May, that "everyone is welcome in Doha, including those coming to Doha with different backgrounds or beliefs. We have millions of people that come and visit our country, and the World Cup is a great opportunity for people from different parts of the world to come and experience our culture. We welcome all visitors to come and enjoy the football and festivities, and I hope everyone coming will get to know our culture and see many other cultures as well. We all live on one planet, but each of us has a different culture. We welcome everybody, and we hope just like any other country that people will respect our culture."
HE Sheikh Khalifa added, "Therefore, we reiterate that Qatar welcomes everyone, regardless of their affiliations and beliefs, and we also want everyone to respect our culture just like anyone would do when visiting other countries in the region and the world. We invite football fans to attend the largest sporting event of its kind, participate in the activities that will coincide with the tournament and enjoy the competition and its atmosphere while also learning about the heritage and culture of Qatar, as well as the wider Arab and Muslim world."
He stressed that hosting the tournament is an opportunity that has been long awaited for by Arabs and Muslims so that they can introduce people around the globe to the Islamic and Arab culture and values.
"We are proud of our culture and values, and this does not run contrary to accepting others based on mutual respect. In fact, this event presents a historic opportunity for us to represent not only Qatar, but all Arabs, and our goal is to present a distinguished and successful tournament, leaving behind a legacy for future generations in Qatar, the region and the rest of the world to benefit from," he added.
HE Sheikh Khalifa said the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is both a sporting and cultural event, and that the cultural diversity of fans will be a positive factor that will create an ideal atmosphere in which everyone can come together to learn about diverse cultures.
On the arrangements in place in case of a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, His Excellency highlighted that "Qatar was the first country in the world to implement the health bubble system to organise tournaments and sporting events when the world was completely paralysed and unable to hold any sporting activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Qatar consequently gained extensive experience in dealing with various crises that may occur during such events".
"Several exercises have also been carried out, in addition to personnel taking part in international sports experiences to acquire the relevant expertise and evaluate experiences in securing major tournaments and events. Several forces from many nations have also taken part in exercises to provide support if needed to ensure the security and safety of fans during the upcoming tournament," he added.
His Excellency also emphasised that security departments, through their co-operation with different State agencies, will use all their capabilities and resources and everything they have acquired to manage such a crisis to ensure the success of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
HE Sheikh Khalifa concluded his remarks to QNA by saying, "Finally, I would like to stress that Qatari fans, citizens and residents are our main partners in ensuring the tournament's success. They are the ones who will create the day-to-day friendly atmosphere we need to welcome so many fans to Qatar. If everyone in Qatar does their part to co-operate with the security and regulatory entities, we will all make this tournament the safest and most secure in the history of all sporting events." (QNA)