Qatar is excited to welcome and show the world its transformation during the World Cup

We are only nine months away from the World Cup in Qatar, which is good and bad news for Fatima Al-Nuaimi, Communications Manager for the Local Organizing Committee.

“I’m excited because, you know, you always have these things on paper. Now you see things come true,” Al-Naimi said over breakfast on Tuesday at the quaint Los Feliz restaurant. “But I have these mixed feelings because I have an international team working with me. And I wouldn’t have the same team together. This is the saddest part.”

Al-Nuaimi is not the only person experiencing mixed feelings as the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East approaches. Because while the Qataris, who have spent 12 years planning the event, are promising the friendliest tournament in history, the rest of the world isn’t so sure.

The small conservative Muslim country, heavily influenced by Islamic law, bans alcohol, homosexuality and public displays of affection. Meanwhile, hustle and bustle are widely disapproved of. Not exactly a festive atmosphere for the month-long celebration that will attract hundreds of thousands of sometimes rowdy visitors with different values.

Al-Nuaimi in his response asks for patience and an open mind. Hospitality, after all, is also a pillar of Islam.

“When we have a guest, we need to take care of our guests,” said Al Nuaimi, whose official title was Executive Communications Director of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Organizing Committee, known officially as the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy. , doesn’t really fit into a business card.

“Many people are excited to welcome the world,” said Al Nuaimi, one of the few official spokespersons for the Qatar Committee. “This is an opportunity for us to show and show the people around us [our] The colors are real.”

More than 17 million ticket orders for the 64 World Cup matches were received during the initial 20-day sales period that ended earlier this month, according to FIFA, which oversees the tournament. Applicants will be notified in early March if their applications are successful, and once this notification is received, they will have access to an online portal to arrange accommodations ranging from five-star hotels to camp sites.

Qataris expect 1.5 million visitors to flood the capital, Doha, a city of 2.4 million people, starting in mid-November. To house them, high-rise hotels and apartments have been built, two cruise ships will be docked along the city’s waterfront, accommodation in private homes and a number of “luxury” campsites – a combination of magic and camping that provides a rare desert experience – have been set up.

Qatar’s small size – the state is smaller than Connecticut – means that some of the eight World Cup stadiums are located within three miles of each other while the farthest are separated by less than 50 miles.

A sprawling mass festival will be held along the stunning views of Doha corniche, Or the Gulf Corniche, where alcohol will be sold – Budweiser, after all, is among the sponsors of the World Cup. Alcohol will also be available in designated “fan areas” outside stadiums and other hospitality venues, but Qatari officials, who are being pressured hard by FIFA to expand alcohol sales, have not yet determined whether Budweiser products will be available inside stadiums. Sales of alcoholic beverages are usually banned at restaurants not affiliated with the hotel or upscale resorts, although this can also be relaxed during the World Cup.

The country regulators are working on other issues as well. Although homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and is punishable by imprisonment, Nasser Al-Khater, CEO of the tournament’s organizing committee, promised to welcome everyone to the tournament, a pledge that Al-Naimi reiterated.

A view of hotels and other buildings in the West Bay area of ​​Doha, Qatar, on December 9, 2021. Several hotels in Qatar have already been fully booked for the World Cup that will take place in November and December.

(Darko Bandik/The Associated Press)

“I will not talk about legislation because I am not a legislator,” she said. “But when it comes to events, everyone is welcome. Regardless of whether people are heterosexual or gay…we have hosted, since we won the [World Cup] Bid, like 600 international events. And this is one case for her [not] They show, about people who feel discriminated against or feel insecure.”

Al-Naimi added that this question still has to be answered over and over again. Her most common response was to invite people to come to Qatar to see for themselves.

“What we hope is that after hosting such a tournament and people have come and experienced first-hand, that perception may change,” she said. It’s not just Qatar. But the entire Middle East, we feel we are part of the world that has been misunderstood.”

The tournament is a high-stakes gamble for Qatar. The country has spent about $200 billion on new roads, airport expansion and other projects including building stadiums, hotels and a public transportation system. Many of these projects have been widely criticized by Amnesty International and others for exploiting foreign workers, which has led to proposed changes to the kafala or kafala system, which binds migrant workers to their employers and gives them few rights.

Many Qataris say labor reforms, along with much of the construction that has transformed Doha since agreeing to host the World Cup in 2010, were inevitable. But inviting the world to visit for a month dramatically speeded up the work and forced the country to take a hard and critical look at its labor and human rights record.

This, combined with a more accurate understanding of the country that the Qataris hope the visitors will take with them, will constitute a larger investment in the future than the expected $20 billion in economic activity expected for the tournament.

“The welfare of workers will be one of the biggest social legacies after the event,” Al Nuaimi said. “It’s part of our national vision, how can we look at social development when it comes to workers’ rights and the reform that’s happening in the country. The World Cup helped accelerate all of that.

“You can see that there have been a lot of things that have happened in the last 10 years. There is still more improvement to happen. But there has been a lot of great progress. For Qatar, as a country, it is a very transformative process.”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: