Will fans in Qatar be allowed to wear shorts and drink alcohol? The main thing about the World Cup 2022
A little more than a year remains before the World Cup in Qatar – the country is actively preparing for the main sports tournament, which will be held for the first time in the Middle East. Fatma Al-Naimi, Chief Communications Officer of the Supreme Committee for the Hosting and Legacy of the 2022 World Cup, told the Championship about Qatar’s plans to break stereotypes about the country, innovative technologies, workers’ rights and the sale of alcohol to fans.
# Qatar-2022. Collapsible stadiums, construction of hospitals and schools, opening of a sports city
– For the majority, Qatar is a non-football country. What can you say to those who are convinced of this?
– Our football is developing year after year – the local fans are just crazy about the game. In addition, we have experience in organizing major international events, including football: in the past few years alone, Qatar has hosted two FIFA Club World Championships. In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, all matches of the Asian Champions League, including the final, were played out in Doha. Qatar has become a sports hub in recent years. We have Aspire Academy – a kind of sports city, one of the best sports and football academies in the world, where famous coaches and football players visit throughout the year. Ten years ago, we had the idea that with such an academy we would be able to raise and develop football players domestically, and now we see that this strategy has worked – the Qatar national team won the Asian Cup in 2019. Reached the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Cup this year and has yet to lose a single match in Group A of the European qualifying tournament in which Qatar is a guest. So Qatar is a football country both in terms of the love of the game on the part of the fans, and the capabilities of its own national team, and, of course, the experience of holding competitions. The fans will be able to see all this with their own eyes next year.
By the time we won the bid to host the World Cup, we already had a strategy for the development of the country until 2030, in order to make Qatar open and progressive in social and educational terms, step forward in environmental development, radically change and develop urban infrastructure. The victory in 2010 made it clear to us that we need to accelerate.
– Yes, there have been impressive changes in 11 years, and people will be able to see a lot of new things in Qatar. By the way, you can recall the experience of Russia: before the World Cup, they often wrote about safety, but what happened in the end when the fans came to the tournament? The stereotypes were shattered – people saw and felt the hospitality of the Russian people. This is a story about how sport brings people closer and breaks down barriers. We have the same goal. There are also a lot of stereotypes around us imposed by the mainstream media, and we want to take the opportunity to show all the warmth of Qatari hospitality when one and a half million fans come to us.
This is the first such tournament in the Arab world. It will be so compact that fans will be able to attend more than one match per day. There will be many unique items in this world championship. We are confident that we will be able to change the way people think about Qatar and the Arab world.
– What has the country learned over this decade?
– When we started preparing, our focus was exclusively on the preparation and construction of infrastructure. Now it has shifted directly to operational readiness and debugging of all processes during the tournament. At the same time, we do not want to simply have a beautiful championship lasting one month and forget about everything. We have big plans for how to harness the power of football and the energy of this epic event to positively influence the lives of people in the future.
– For example?
– For example, we have the Generation Amazing program, which started in 2010 and continues to this day. Its mission is to help people from disadvantaged communities, to promote positive social change, using the power of football. These are training, education, leadership development plus the construction of football fields in different countries around the world: Pakistan, Nepal, India, Palestine, Jordan and many others. About 725,000 children have already taken part in this program, who received support, talked personally with football stars, and learned a lot of new things. We plan to increase this number to 1 million children by 2022.
In addition, we have the Challenge 22 program. Basically, it is an accelerator for startups from all over the region. The World Championship can become a platform, a showcase, a growth point for them. Startups receive peer review, mentoring, funding – more than $ 1.8 million have already been implemented as support some of them will gain experience in hosting the world championship. Legacy is a very important point for us. Perhaps even the most important one.
– The legacy of the World Cup is used in many countries either poorly or not at all. How did Qatar deal with this problem?
– Qatar, of course, studied the experience of previous tournaments when planning its concept. We did not want to leave the “white elephants”, but we could not violate the requirements of FIFA. Therefore, most of the stadiums after the tournament will be modernized: the capacity of almost all arenas will be reduced by 50%, and the seats will go to the development of sports infrastructure in Qatar or in other countries where necessary. This is made possible by the modular design of the stands. But the modernization is not limited to this. Before making plans for how the arenas will be used in the future, we talked with people living nearby and asked what they were missing in the area. They made their own list, and we saw: here, for example, residents need a hospital, in another place – a shopping center, and in the third – a mosque and a park where you can go in for sports. Therefore, many stadiums and adjacent areas after the 2022 World Cup will turn into socially significant facilities. The arena that will host the final – Lusail – will not be used for football at all. Only the bowl will remain, and a school, medical facilities and, possibly, offices will appear inside. Only the Khalifa International stadium will retain its original appearance, while the rest will be reformatted. Ras Abu Abud will generally become the first stadium in the history of the World Championships to be completely dismantled after the tournament. The arena is built with 974 freight containers, which is the epitome of our approach to heritage and sustainability. offices. Only the Khalifa International stadium will retain its original appearance, while the rest will be reformatted. Ras Abu Abud will generally become the first stadium in the history of the World Championships to be completely dismantled after the tournament. The arena is built with 974 freight containers, which is the epitome of our approach to heritage and sustainability. offices. Only the Khalifa International stadium will retain its original appearance, while the rest will be reformatted. Ras Abu Abud will generally become the first stadium in the history of the World Championships to be completely dismantled after the tournament. The arena is built with 974 freight containers, which is the epitome of our approach to heritage and sustainability.
– It turns out that the World Cup served as a powerful catalyst for changes in the country?
– Yes. The World Cup will take place in November, when it’s not so hot outside, but we still installed a cooling system in the stadiums to make sure the arenas can be used year-round in the future. All innovations and drivers of development pass through different spheres of life – in a global sense, changes lie outside of football alone. The same cooling system has been installed on some streets in Qatar for the comfort of pedestrians. The city infrastructure is developing, the Doha metro has been built, which will be actively used by fans during the World Cup, the airport has been modernized, parks and pedestrian zones are being developed – almost everything is being transformed.
– There are also plans to minimize or completely get rid of the CO2 footprint. What will be done for this?
– We have a whole strategy, which, by the way, was first developed jointly with FIFA. The stadiums were built using recycled materials, using the most sustainable construction methods currently available, and using renewable energy sources. One of the most innovative solutions is probably the modular design of arenas, which will meet the internal needs for sports, as well as reduce energy costs for operation. Another factor that will significantly reduce the carbon footprint is the compactness of the tournament. Due to the small distances between venues, fans will have the opportunity to attend more than one match per day using our eco-friendly transport system. Plus, there will be no domestic flights – this is also a significant factor. We also have a tree planting program: anyone can donate a seedling, the trees are grown in a special nursery and will be moved to the areas in front of the stadiums. We sign the name of everyone who donated the tree.
– Has the pandemic somehow affected the construction plans?
– No, by the time she hit the world, we already had a lot. We were lucky: we had 12 years to think over everything, to draw up projects that, among other things, would meet international working standards. We carefully checked each business proposal so that it not only looks technically attractive, but also meets all the requirements.
#An experience. FAN ID, workers’ and women’s rights
– As far as I know, the Qatari delegations went to all the big tournaments: the Olympics, the World Championship, the European Championship. What is the global purpose of these trips?
– We won the bid in 2010, and in 2012 the Olympic Games were held in London, which, in terms of the use of heritage, turned out to be the best in history. We could not help but go and study what they did, how they came to this. At every major tournament we visited, we managed to highlight the most successful moments that we would like to adapt with us. In Russia, our official delegation consisted of more than 180 people who were distributed in different zones: security, stadiums, fan activities. In general, the tournament was organized just brilliantly, you have greatly raised the bar for holding competitions of this level. We would like to integrate many points into our concept. In particular, we liked the FAN ID idea.
– That is, fans’ passports will also be valid in Qatar?
– Yes, we have developed our project based on the successful experience of Russia. The first test will take place already this year – the FAN ID will be used during the FIFA Arab Cup in November-December.
– What else have you learned from the Russian experience of hosting the World Cup?
– Russia was very criticized before the tournament, they wrote that it was unsafe for you. But you showed the world by deed that all this is not true. People came and saw everything for themselves: friendliness, beauty, safety, hospitality. We have a similar problem, so this is what we would like too: for the fans to come and see that Qatar has nothing to do with the prevailing stereotypes.
– Yes, a lot has been written about Russia – especially the British media. There are no fewer articles about Qatar now, and most of them concern the deaths of workers.
– There is a lot of writing about this, and everyone in Qatar and on the World Cup project agrees that this is the most important issue that deserves close attention. Alas, these materials rarely mention the significant changes that have occurred in Qatar since we got the right to host the tournament. At the same time, unverified, confusing information is published that has little to do with reality. However, everyone can agree on one thing: human life is priceless. Every death is a tragedy. That is why the social security, safety and well-being of workers involved in the construction of the World Cup facilities has been our top priority since the very beginning, since 2010, when we started this journey. We have a separate department that is responsible for protecting each worker. We are absolutely open in this matter, all data and reports can be found on our website or from independent international organizations that visit Qatar and with whom we cooperate – ILO (International Labor Organization, a division of the United Nations), ITUС (International Trade Union Confederation), BWI ( International Organization of Builders and Carpenters) and other organizations.
–But people read about 6,500 people who died at a construction site. Questions are asked why the number is so large and how it was even allowed.
– I repeat, every death is a tragedy. To our deep regret, we have recorded three deaths of workers at the World Cup facilities since we started construction in 2014, and another 35 that are not work-related. As for the Guardian’s numbers, the Qatari government has previously issued an official statement on the matter, which denies the allegations. I cannot speak on behalf of the government, but I can say that we have come a long way in terms of social security and protection of people working on the construction of the tournament infrastructure. We have always believed that the World Cup has the potential to leave a significant social legacy – especially with regard to workers’ rights.
–What has been done to protect them?
– The Supreme Committee of the 2022 World Cup has set its own labor standards at facilities – this applies to housing, and wages, and monitoring of illegal employment, and health, and many other aspects. Labor reforms in Qatar, carried out by the government, are a new level for the entire region: the Kafala system has been abolished, a minimum wage has been established, and many laws have been modified. A modern labor system is being created that serves the interests of workers and companies, and Qatar is a leader in the Arabian Gulf. For a country in the Arab world, this is a huge progress in such a short period of time, but, of course, the path of reform is not complete – there is still a lot to be done. We are open, ready to talk about our achievements and listen to criticism.
–What about women’s rights?
– In this regard, certain changes have taken place over the past couple of decades. They are mainly associated with Her Highness Sheikha Moza bin Nasser, wife of the Emir-father. She paid a lot of attention to education, and now there are two or three times more women with higher education than men in Qatar. There are women in various professions, from the oil and gas sector to engineering, as well as in government positions. As for the Supreme Committee of the 2022 World Cup, we have women in high positions, and in general, about 40% of employees are women. Although football is considered mostly a male industry. What people sometimes think about women’s rights in Qatar is often not true – again, one of the stereotypes. There are no strict restrictions or laws, but there is, of course, culture, foundations and traditions.
#Fans. What to do in Qatar, how to dress and whether alcohol will be sold
– In Russia, FAN ID gave the right to free use of transport. Will fans get something similar in Qatar?
– We plan and analyze the needs, experience and activity of fans at the World Cup, discuss these issues with everyone involved in the process. The fan must receive all the necessary information about Qatar, buy a plane ticket, fly in, get to the booked hotel and then to the stadium. This path should be as simple and convenient as possible. We also understand that people will not only come for football, but also have a good time in Qatar. There is a cultural component of any world championship – fans will want to go to museums, to the beach, to go on excursions in the desert, to taste Arabic food, to visit all the entertainment. Ideally, combine this all into one system, of which, of course, the FAN ID will be part. What services and preferences can be obtained using it, we will inform you additionally.
–Since you mentioned the cultural dimension, what advice can you give to those who come to Qatar? Where should they go?
– We have wonderful museums with large collections: the National Museum of Qatar, the Museum of Islam, there is a cultural location called “Qatar” – a huge park where you can walk, eat delicious food, admire the views of Doha. There is an opportunity to go on a journey through the desert and experience this part of our culture for yourself or spend time quietly on the beach. There are also traditional Arab locations such as the Souk Waqif market, and there are ultra-modern districts with skyscrapers. Beaches, restaurants, bars, parks … Everyone can find something for themselves.
– Will there be special zones where fans can try things that are unique to Qatar?
– This is Souk Waqif – a traditional Arab market with a unique atmosphere. I can also tell a funny story. In 2019, Qatar hosted the Club World Cup, which was attended by many Brazilian Flamengo fans. Many of them bought our national men’s clothing, and the Qataris taught them how to put on and wear them correctly. These are such small but beautiful details that create a sense of celebration. Much depends on the mood with which people come to Qatar: if the mood is initially negative, then they will not get good emotions, and if a person is open to new adventures, then everything will be great. The World Championship is held in different countries and cities, every four years there is an opportunity to get new impressions from a new culture. As a rule, people are attracted by the same pleasant things – communication, new discoveries and places, football. This is the beauty and strength of the World Cup.
–Will it be possible to buy alcohol at the World Cup?
– Alcohol is not part of our culture, but it will be available in certain areas. We already tested them in 2019 at the Club World Cup – the fans actively attended them. Alcohol will be available in the fan zone, where you can listen to music and enjoy matches.
– Will only beer be sold, or will spirits also be available for purchase?
– Plans for fan zones have not been finalized yet. But here it is important to understand that, in general, alcoholic beverages are available in Qatar – they can be purchased in bars and restaurants of hotels.
– Some have fears that they will need to comply with the Qatari dress code: not to expose the body, not to wear shorts and short dresses.
– People from all over the world now live in Qatar, Doha has become a real multicultural metropolis over the past twenty years. Yes, we have our own traditions – this is part of the culture. Qatar is, of course, a relatively conservative society, however there are no strict restrictions on what you may or may not wear in the city or on the beaches near hotels. With the exception of religious sites, mosques, and government buildings, where you are expected to have your shoulders and knees covered, people generally wear what they like. But there are also many other stereotypes. Sometimes people who came here asked: “Will there be a car?”, And I said: “Of course. What do you expect? Camel? ” In general, we try to maintain a balance. On the one hand, there is a modern city, and on the other, there are older traditional places with their own traditions and foundations.
– If we talk about coronavirus: how will people get to the stadiums? Do you need vaccination, tests for this?
– The situation with the pandemic in the world is constantly changing. We are closely monitoring this and are guided by the recommendations of the Ministry of Health, but we expect that the World Cup in Qatar will be held in more or less familiar conditions for the fans. The government recently relaxed the rules for entering the country, starting ticket sales for the FIFA Arab Cup, which will be held at six stadiums at the 2022 World Cup. Fans will be able to attend these games – in accordance with the rules established by the Ministry of Health and the relevant government agencies. Vaccinations in Qatar are in full swing, many have already been vaccinated, but what will be the situation in the world in a year, time will tell. We want as many people as possible to attend the World Cup in Qatar, because such a tournament is what unites people. Especially in the current environment.