* HE Hassan al-Thawadi outlines the legacy he wants the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world to deliver
The power of hosting the FIFA World Cup and Qatar’s preparations for the next edition of the tournament were discussed on day one of the Leaders Meet conference in Doha.
During the opening session, HE Hassan al-Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), described hosting the World Cup as a golden opportunity to build cultural bridges and change stereotypes about the Middle East and Arab world.
Speaking during a session titled ‘Healthy, Happy & Historic: Setting the Scene for Qatar 2022’, Al-Thawadi said: “I’ve always insisted that this World Cup is a precious opportunity to create bonds and friendships that can serve to break down existing stereotypes and prejudices – on behalf of the outside world and ourselves. We need to get beyond the polarising discussions and debates that entrench divides between communities and nations. We need more platforms to bring people together, interact and appreciate each other as human beings, and this World Cup is the perfect opportunity for us to realise that vision.”
Al Thawadi also spoke about the economic and social impact of Qatar 2022.
“I hope to see companies coming out of this region that served the World Cup and as a result of the tournament become regional or even global players in the major events industry. The bottom line is that I want people to say this is how the World Cup improved my life – either as a participant, fan, volunteer or company.”
During the afternoon session, Nasser al-Khater, CEO, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC (Q22), and Colin Smith, FIFA’s Chief Tournament & Events Officer and Q22’s Managing Director, contributed to a session titled ‘The Host Process: FIFA and Qatar 2022 in Partnership’.
Al-Khater discussed the upcoming FIFA Arab Cup, which will get underway on Tuesday, and outlined the benefits of hosting the most compact FIFA World Cup in modern history.
“This is the smallest World Cup since Uruguay 1930. In terms of stadiums and geography, the advantages are clear. There are also challenges,” said Al-Khater. “We are expecting 1-1.2 million fans during the tournament. At the peak, we will have about 250,000 visitors at any given time. We are testing our plans now during the Arab Cup by reducing the workforce in offices and closing the Corniche. We are putting plans in place to minimise congestion.”
Al-Khater went on to say Qatar’s mission was simple: to host the best FIFA World Cup ever.
“Everybody in Qatar has seen the changes [over the last ten years]. It’s not all because of the World Cup – but I think the World Cup has accelerated the transformation. Qatar’s blueprint has been the National Vision 2030 – but we’ve delivered many things earlier, like the metro, airport, highways – eight years earlier than planned.”
He continued: “Our key focus is to deliver the best World Cup ever – a really amazing and unique experience that Qatar and the region can be proud of.”
Smith said the World Cup aimed to deliver unmatched experiences for fans and players.
“Our job is to provide amazing experiences to everyone and showcase Qatar to the world while hosting the best World Cup to date. This is a real opportunity for fans to come and discover Qatar and the Arab world for what will be a truly memorable World Cup.”
Smith went on to praise Qatar for having all its venues finished a year before the big kick-off.
“All the venues are fantastic and locally inspired but I think Al Bayt is particularly special in terms of its uniqueness to the region. Anyone who goes there will see the Arab-inspired fabric in the ceiling –the structure is stunning.”
He added: “The commitment to have all these venues finished so far in advance is outstanding. Having the sporting infrastructure ready a year out allows operational planning to kick in early. We will continue to discover all these stadiums operationally over the next year.”
Al-Khater encouraged the public to buy tickets for the FIFA Arab Cup, which will see two stadiums inaugurated on the opening day: Al Bayt and Stadium 974.
“All our plans are coming together and the mood is very positive. The first match day is always challenging and Al Bayt is a new stadium. There will be four matches a day – and that’s something that’s never been done before so that’s quite challenging. We’re happy to have the chance to do it now before the World Cup next year.”
He added: “Inaugurating stadiums is always exciting as they are the jewels in the crown. Al Bayt and 974 are both unique and impressive. Please buy your tickets and apply for your Fan ID. Qatar versus Bahrain at Al Bayt is going to be exciting.”
A number of other SC executives took part in Leaders Meet, including Generation Amazing Programmes Director, Nasser al-Khori, who spoke about the project using football as a catalyst for social change in countries around the world. Meanwhile, on day two of the conference, Fatma al-Nuaimi, the SC’s Communications Executive Director, took part in a panel session about the role of women in major sporting organisations.