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Hassan Al Thawadi – Accessible and affordable 2022 World Cup in Qatar will bring a post Covid-19 world together


The high-ranking official highlighted the importance of sporting events in a world that has been ravaged by the pandemic…

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will play a significant role in celebrating humanity and extend a platform to bring a post Covid-19 world together, according to the Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), Hassan Al Thawadi.

Al Thawadi, who is also the Chairman of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC, is the guy tasked with ensuring the greatest spectacle in football is organised smoothly two years down the line.

He feels that the pandemic has certainly thrown up challenges for the SC, the organisation responsible for the delivery of infrastructure for the tournament. But they have responded to the same swiftly and aggressively and are looking forward to ensuring the 2022 event will be a platform that brings a pandemic-ravaged world together and help them celebrate the spirit of humanity.

“We have always said we wanted the World Cup to be an affordable tournament. We are thinking Covid-19 will be almost dying out by the end of 2022,” Al Thawadi said during an online interaction at the 2020 Concordia Annual Summit.

“We are confident that the World Cup will be an accessible and affordable tournament. We want people to celebrate the first global event at the tail end of the pandemic.

“Covid-19 has unified humanity in terms of its impact. Sports and the 2022 World Cup in particular, is a platform to bring people together. At the end of Covid-19, we need to harness and utilise these platforms (World Cup) to celebrate humanity.”

Al Thawadi also touched upon the importance of keeping a balance between affordability for the fans and the costs incurred by the service providers during the World Cup. That being said, he also highlighted the fact that Qatar will keep in mind the economic impact of the pandemic worldwide.

“In a Covid-19 world, you can’t have a fixed assumption. But there is no doubt that we are working for it to be an accessible World Cup. We are hopeful of the numbers we hoped to have even before Covid-19.

“But the economic condition of the world is a factor. We have to keep a balance to ensure it is an affordable World Cup. It is at a balancing point where the pricing should be affordable for the fans but will help service providers and airlines to function properly as well,” he added.

“We are looking at different assumptions and models. We are in discussions with a lot of people to predict what it might be. We are learning.”

He also highlighted the daunting challenges Qatar had to tackle on the face of the pandemic, including the steps they took to limit its impact in the country and the 2022 World Cup project sites.

“It was daunting. Nobody was prepared for the pandemic. But as a nation and as an organisation, I’m proud of the way we handled it. We (SC) took a page from what the country (Governent of Qatar) did. We focused on the health and well being of everyone in Qatar. Very aggressive testing and contact and tracing procedures were followed to limit the spread. People were taken to medical facilities and their wages were paid too. We tried to limit the impact within the country,” he said.

Al Thawadi also mentioned how the SC ensured there was a modicum of normalcy so that the mental health of the workforce was maintained while work on the 2022 World Cup projects was not completely stopped. The SC isolated the ‘at-risk’ category of workers and implemented rigorous social distancing procedures.

“In relation to the World Cup, we took immediate action. We isolated at-risk, critical workers with underlying conditions and old age. We put them in a safe facility. We implemented rigorous health and safety standards, social distancing and sanitising policy and procedures within and outside the work sites.

“We wanted to ensure the work continued in a safe environment. We knew the impact a complete stop would’ve had on the mental and emotional health of individuals. So we wanted to maintain normalcy at a slower pace to ensure work continued. It helped that 85 per cent of our work had already been completed.”

Education City Stadium, Qatar

The high-ranking official also mentioned how Qatar and SC are learning how to cope with organising such a huge tournament in a Covid-19 world. Al Thawadi revealed that they are in dialogue with the NBA, UEFA and European leagues to study and understand this in detail.

“We are blessed that Covid-19 came two years before the World Cup. The 2020 Olympics and Euro (football) got pushed back. We are in discussions with them to learn from their experiences. We are also learning from sporting tournaments that are running. NBA (Basketball) is one of the best examples in terms of the bubble-to-bubble model. UEFA held their championships (Champions League and Europa League). We are learning from them. We have the luxury of time to learn how to cope with it,” he said.

Al Thawadi also spoke about how the World Cup will bridge cultural and regional differences, relaying the message that everyone around the world will be welcomed to the tournament with open arms.

“From day one, we have said that this tournament is about bridging cultural gaps and differences. The state of Qatar always believes in resolving conflict through dialogue and in utilising platforms like the World Cup to celebrate the spark of humanity.

“We see sports as a medium to bring people together regardless of ideologies and differences. We want to break down barriers on a human to human level. Everybody is welcome to attend the tournament.”

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Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a team sport played with a spherical ball between two teams of eleven players. It is played by 250 million players in over 200 countries and dependencies, making it the world's most popular sport.