Nasser Al Khater: Qatar has invaluable lessons from this World Cup

Qatar, the tiny gulf nation with a population of 2.6 million, had not qualified in any of the previous 21 editions of the competition. That has not diminished its ambitions though, and the country is on course to have the required stadium and logistical infrastructure in place by 2020, a good two years before the World Cup.

I believe by 2022 we will have a larger fan-base travelling to Qatar from India and China, says Nasser Al Khater.   -  Special Arrangement

With the month-long football festivities coming to an end in Russia, the world’s focus, which scrutinises every minute detail related to policy and infrastructure, polity, is now on Qatar, the host of the 2022 World Cup.

The tiny gulf nation with a population of 2.6 million had not qualified in any of the previous 21 editions of the competition. That has not diminished its ambitions though, and the country is on course to have the required stadium and logistical infrastructure in place by 2020, a good two years before the World Cup.

Nasser Al Khater, the Assistant Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, sounded confident about his country’s ability to deal with the million-plus visitors that the World Cup regularly brings and other challenges that might come its way. He, however, was guarded about bringing in a co-host for a possible 48-team tournament.

On affordable accommodation for World Cup visitors

We have done our estimates for over a million visitors. We have taken a look at the accommodation available and contrary to the popular belief, we are not building hotels in Qatar just for the World Cup, we don’t want to build something that is not sustainable.

We are looking at hotels of different classes, inventory of furnished apartments that people rent in Qatar on short-term basis, temporary solutions such as the floating hotels — the cruise ships and we are taking a look at different and varied fan villages where there can be “glamping” (glamorous or luxury camping) or you can just pitch your own tent.

Qatar’s Khalifa International Stadium, the first completed 2022 FIFA World Cup venue.   -  Getty Images

 

Expecting an Asian surge

Every year, fans from India and China are increasing at the World Cup. I believe by 2022 we will have a larger fan-base travelling to Qatar from these two countries.

On a 48-team World Cup

There is a feasibility study that’s going to be done. There is a process of consultation. I am very glad that FIFA said that the final decision stays with Qatar. We don’t want to take any decision now. We don’t understand what the format of a 48-team World Cup could look like. Until we get that feasibility study and that consultation process (is completed), we need to wait and see.

We have been planning for a 32-team World Cup in Qatar and that’s as far as our plans go.

Possibility of co-hosting a bigger event

As far as co-hosting is concerned, that is a question that FIFA or other (interested nations) co-hosts need to answer and evaluate. They only have four years left.

On stadium and other infrastructure projects

We have one completed stadium. We will complete two more by the end of this year. By the end of 2019, we are looking to complete two more stadiums and we will complete the rest by 2020.

By 2020, we would have completed the road infrastructure. The metro will start testing by end of 2018, and more lines will be added in 2019 and it will be fully functional by 2020. Training sites will also be completed by 2020. So, we have two years of buffer to test all our facilities.

Two men pose for a picture in the Majlis Qatar pavilion in Moscow’s Gorky Park during the World Cup in Russia. Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup in 2022.   -  AFP

 

Post-tournament legacy

A lot of the stadiums will go to local clubs, which are now playing in old stadiums. One stadium — Ras Abu Aboud Stadium — will be completely dismantled after the World Cup. It’s built at a strategic location on the beachfront. The area will be completely redeveloped into a tourist attraction. Another two stadiums will be completely repurposed with a lot of the seats and other infrastructures moved to developing football countries in consultation with FIFA.

On Qatar’s chances at the World Cup

The trajectory is very good; the team is very promising. The ambition is there; the optimism is there.

Creating a volunteer pool (Russia had 70000 volunteers)

Our estimates are now out for 15,000 volunteers. We already have a set of volunteers who are attending many of our build-up events. We are also looking at creating an international volunteer program and we are looking at the entire middle-east region.

Lessons learnt from Russia

We learnt a lot from the Russians. We had around 180 people here. We have invaluable lessons from this World Cup. In terms of security, it was not overly visible but you could feel secure in public places and stadiums. We will have a debrief with FIFA and the Russian LOC now that the World Cup is over.