Will Qatar Be Ready?
A simple question, with a perhaps not so simple answer. For any readers lucky enough to have visited the Gulf state of Qatar, they will recognise it for being organised, boasting a tourist infrastructure that far exceeds demand and as a country that celebrates luxury, with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.
The challenge is that officials estimate the country will receive over 1.2 million visitors during the month-long tournament. Given that this represents 40% of the total population, the task presented to Qatar is far from easy. In the past, the World Cup has been hosted by nations such as Brazil or Russia, countries with large areas and therefore an ability to welcome large numbers of people. However, in the case of Qatar, fans will be centred around a single city, Doha, and it’s this concentration that has been one of the key logistical challenges.
While the country is likely to be showered with praise for the stunning design of the eight host stadiums, which exude flair and aesthetic appeal, the concern from some is whether this represents style over substance. Many areas around the stadiums are currently surrounded by construction, with hotels and fan zones still seen to be some way off completion. At least for the world’s media, we can expect state-of-the-art facilities and well-choreographed shots. However, it’s the experience for fans that remains in question. Qatari officials are more than confident the nation is ready, but only time will tell if their promise lives up to the high expectations of football fans across the globe.
What Accommodation is Available for Fans?
Let’s be clear, with over 1.2 million fans expected to visit the tournament, the Supreme Committee responsible for delivering the World Cup has already announced that there won’t be enough beds for everyone to sleep in Qatar. So, with this alarming statement in mind, what is the plan?
Firstly, 160 daily shuttle flights have been scheduled to transport fans between Doha and their neighbours in the UAE, with flights to Dubai and Abu Dhabi taking approximately 40 minutes. For those wishing to stay in Qatar, the options available really depend on individual budgets, ranging from $80 per night for sleeping pods to a $2,500 night’s stay at a luxury villa located in the Banana Island resort. In addition, organisers are looking to set up tented campsites, like those seen at music festivals, with luxury options being offered in the region of $380 a night. There are also signs that accommodation is being set up at Al Wakrah, but if recent pictures are to be believed, they are currently a row of metal cabins with little else in the way of amenities or luxuries surrounding them. It is suggested that 80% of the rooms in Doha have already been booked, but fans are waiting for the release of 20,000 rooms one month prior to the tournament.
Organisers are confident an array of accommodation options will all be ready in time for the tournament. However, for fans who have experienced the accommodation at previous tournaments, many are being warned to brace themselves for what could be a bit of a culture shock. Expect round-the-clock construction between now and the start of the event.
Will Fans be Able to Drink Alcohol?
The simple answer to this question is yes. However, as you would expect from a country where consumption is strictly regulated, it does come with a few restrictions. Fans attending matches will be able to purchase alcohol before and after the matches, but there will be a strict ban on fans bringing their own alcohol to the grounds, and they will not be given licence to enjoy a drink in the stands.
Fans with a little extra cash can visit one of the numerous luxury hotels and freely purchase alcohol from the bars within, but be warned, this will come at a high price, with a pint of beer expected to cost between $12-15. Non-Muslim residents in Qatar will still be able to access alcohol via the Qatar Distribution company, providing they have a permit. It remains to be seen to what level authorities will impose punishments on fans caught with alcohol illegally, but it’s important to remember that drinking in public can be dealt with via a six-month prison sentence or a hefty fine. The advice is that fans should be aware of the laws and respect the boundaries of the nation’s laws and culture.
How Easy is it For Fans to Travel Around?
The lengthy and strenuous journeys experienced by fans in World Cups gone by will be a thing of the past in Qatar. As one of the smallest countries in Asia and boasting a brand-new highway and a 300km metro system, fans will be able to travel between stadiums with ease. For those with a matchday ticket, the metro system will be free, but at just $1.65 for a day pass, it won’t be travel costs that fans are worried about. The two most remote stadiums are Al Byat and Al Wakrah, but at just 90 miles apart, fans will still have no problem travelling between the two. Taxis will be widely available and, with the Hamad International Airport a mere 30 minutes from central Doha, any questions around connectivity have been easily addressed.
How Will Fans Cope With the Desert Heat?
With the move of the World Cup to the winter, this has largely become a moot point, as while temperatures in the summer can exceed 40 degrees Celsius, average temperatures in November and December are expected to be a much more comfortable 24 degrees. In addition, all the venues, except for 974 Stadium, will be equipped with air conditioning for both fans and players. At pitch level, over 350 sensors within the grass will monitor temperature and humidity, automatically adjusting the temperature to ensure it’s always kept at an optimal level. Air will also be filtered to remove any imperfections such as dust and pollen, as well as help limit the spread of viruses such as COVID-19. For fans concerned about the environmental impact, there is good news. Solar farms positioned outside Doha will generate enough electricity to power all the stadium air conditioning units. Therefore, as far as queries around heat and fan comfort are concerned, the authorities in Qatar again seem to have this one covered.
Will Fans be Safe During the Tournament?
While there can never be any absolute assurances, fans attending the tournament in Qatar can do so in the comfort of knowing the authorities are well prepared. With support from the UK and US Air Force to help monitor the skies and provide intelligence insight, the security team behind the World Cup have also built a state-of-the-art control centre, whereby everything that happens at each stadium can be monitored and adjusted at the touch of a button. With over 2,000 security cameras at each stadium and artificial intelligence systems to help manage crowd control, the security of fans is another area that the team behind Qatar 2022 seems to have locked down.
Will the Matches be Sold Out?
Tickets have been sold in stages, with the biggest uptake coming from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The remaining tickets are on sale now, with forecasts suggesting that matches will be played out in front of full stadiums. While fans from Europe and the Americas have expressed their anxiety about getting to and staying in Qatar, the excitement in the Middle East and surrounding regions has been significant.
Will Qatar 2022 Be a Success?
While it will be a different type of tournament from what we’ve seen before, the key elements are all in place. World-class stadiums, a near-perfect climate for matches and a transport system that is expected to work like clockwork. So, while there are concerns around accommodation and there remain question marks as to how such a significant influx of people in such a small country can be managed, the Qatari authorities remain steadfast in their readiness to host a World Cup like the world has never seen before. Only time will tell whether they live up to this promise, but if there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that the excitement and anticipation are building and the scrutiny of the world’s media is only going to intensify as the kickoff in Qatar draws ever closer.