Qatar 2022 still expects six venues to be ready by end of this year
The organisers of the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar are confident that the plans for the tournament will not be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and believe it will be an opportunity to “celebrate humanity” after the trials and tribulations of this year.
The spread of Covid-19, which has claimed 328,000 lives worldwide, has resulted in a widespread shutdown of sport, with events such as the Uefa European Championships and the Tokyo Olympic Games postponed until 2021.
Preparations for the next World Cup, the first to be held in the Middle East, have slowed, but Hassan Al-Thawadi (pictured), the head of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, has insisted that they remain on track, with six of the eight venues set to be finished by the end of 2020.
Speaking at the Leaders Direct conference on Wednesday, Al-Thawadi said: “I believe by 2022 that we will have overcome this pandemic as a human race, collectively. It will be an opportunity for us to celebrate, one of the early opportunities for us all to celebrate together, to engage together and bring people together.
"I have always said that this is a tournament to bring people together, and now more than ever. Hopefully, in 2022, the Covid pandemic will be behind us, for all of us to be able to celebrate humanity together."
Qatar has had just under 40,000 reported coronavirus cases and 17 deaths as of today.
There has long been a spotlight on the treatment of construction workers responsible for building the vast infrastructure required for the 2022 World Cup but Al-Thawadi emphasised that vulnerable workers have been isolated and sites disinfected to minimise the impact of the virus.
He said: “We are continuing work, at a much slower pace than under normal circumstances, to provide a sense of continuity. We are blessed with being 80 per cent ahead of time. Our plan is that by the end of this year six of our stadiums will be ready.
"We have enough of a buffer zone to manage that delicate balance between our first priority of ensuring the health and safety of everybody involved in the projects, while at the same time providing that same sense of continuity in terms of the project delivery.”
Al-Thawadi hopes that the current travel restrictions will have been lifted and international flights resumed in good time to enable fans from across the globe to attend the 2022 World Cup but is planning contingencies if this is not the case.
He said: “We are in discussion with experts, hosts of other big sports events, and planning out for different scenarios. This will be an affordable tournament, we want everyone to come and enjoy. During the 2019 Fifa Club World Cup, we engaged with the clubs and the fans, and ensured everything was as affordable as possible in terms of flights and accommodation.
“We are committed to ensure an affordable World Cup for the fans, and at the same time strike a balance to ensure that it is functional with the suppliers, and other stakeholders.”
Qatar 2022 does have some leeway in terms of time with Fifa having already rescheduled the tournament from the traditional months of June and July to November and December to avoid the intensely hot summer temperatures in the Gulf state.