Doha, Qatar: With exactly three years to go until Qatar 2022 kicks off, the Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy said the country and region are excited to host fans from all over the world.
In a wide-ranging interview with www.sc.qa, H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi said preparations for the FIFA World Cup 2022 were in full swing. He described the upcoming Arabian Gulf Cup and FIFA Club World Cup as golden opportunities to test readiness for 2022, and said fans should expect great weather, outstanding hospitality and a raft of entertainment options when Qatar hosts the biggest single-sport event in the world.
Al Thawadi, who has led Qatar's drive to host the FIFA World Cup since 2009, also outlined his vision for the tournament's legacy, which includes breaking down stereotypes about the country and region.
How are preparations coming along for Qatar 2022 and when will all the stadiums be ready?
Preparations for Qatar 2022 are coming along very well. We have two stadiums already operational and by the end of the first half of next year, we will have three more stadiums ready and operational. By the end of 2021, all eight of our stadiums will have been inaugurated, tested and be tournament-ready.
All the national infrastructure work is also being completed according to schedule. The metro system is being tested and commissioned and will be operational by the end of this year. The entire system will be ready by the first half of next year.
We have two tournaments coming soon – the Arabian Gulf Cup and FIFA Club World Cup. How will these events help preparations for Qatar 2022?
The Arabian Gulf Cup and FIFA Club World Cup are great tournaments as rehearsals for 2022. First, they're helping us in crowd management, communication, fan experience and identifying the areas where we can improve. We're looking to welcome the fans and also communicate with them and get their feedback as to their experience.
In addition, our infrastructure is being tested – on a smaller scale – in preparation for the World Cup. Next year we have another Club World Cup, and in 2021 we are looking for another event in preparation for 2022.
What can fans travelling for these tournaments expect from Qatar?
The fans can expect sun, the beach, entertainment and hospitality. In November and December, we have great weather and fans will be able to experience cultural events, concerts, trips to the desert and trips to the beach. All of them will give a flavour of the Middle East, Arab countries and Qatar, of course.
What do you envisage the legacy of Qatar 2022 will be; for Qatar, the region and the world?
In terms of the first World Cup in the Middle East and Islamic world, I believe the legacy this World Cup will leave is huge.
First of all, we're looking at building bridges. There's no platform in the world today that brings people together like football – and in particular the World Cup – where people on a human to human level can build a very close relationship, can get rid of stereotypes, can appreciate the differences between us in terms of culture and backgrounds, but can nevertheless get together as human beings and as football fans as well.
We're working hard to ensure there is an economic and social benefit that this tournament leaves in Qatar and the region. As of today, the World Cup has spurned a lot of industries in Qatar, some of them related to environmental sustainability and hospitality. For example, we are building a solar farm thanks to the World Cup.
On a social level, we have Generation Amazing, which uses football for development to develop leadership skills, life skills and communication skills for people in underprivileged areas in Qatar and other countries.
And of course, one of the most visible legacies is the workers' welfare reforms. The SC has made global achievements in this area, in particular when it comes to the reimbursement of recruitment fees. We understand there is still a long way to go but the progress made since we won the World Cup has been extensive.
How important is it that people come and see Qatar for themselves?
I think the World Cup offers a unique opportunity for any host country and region to have people from different parts of the world congregate in your country and appreciate your culture. They get to break down the stereotypes and ideas they had previously. No doubt, for the Middle East, Arab world and Qatar, there is a predetermined concept people have, when in reality, we're just like everyone else. We have a great sense of humour, we have great hospitality.
We love football and are passionate about it, just like any other fan all over the world. And once we find the commonality between us, I think we begin to appreciate the differences, and it's the differences that enrich us as human beings. And that is what we want to invest in.
What's your message to fans all over the world who are already thinking about travelling to Qatar in 2022?
My message to the millions of fans that are looking to come to Qatar in 2022: welcome to Qatar, welcome to the Middle East. We're excited to host you, we're excited to welcome you and for all of us to celebrate the greatest sport on earth and the greatest event on earth.