Question: We have exactly 1,000 days to go until Qatar 2022 – where are we in terms of tournament infrastructure and what can we expect to see this year?
Answer: With 1,000 days to go, I’m very proud to say that we are on schedule. In terms of stadiums, we have launched two stadiums, Khalifa Stadium and Al Janoub Stadium, last year. Education City Stadium is completed; we’re just waiting for the right time to launch it. We will have stadiums coming online by the end of this year – Al Rayyan Stadium and Al Bayt Stadium. By the end of 2021, early 2022, we will have all eight stadiums ready, with Lusail being the final one.
In terms of overall infrastructure, for example, the metro system is operational. New lines are coming into play as we speak. It was successfully tested during the FIFA Club World Cup. The great thing about it is that it was very successfully utilised by the population, not just for the tournament, but just generally.
In terms of ICT infrastructure, we are practically completed with the 5G coverage over most of the country. Simply put, in terms of tournament infrastructure, everything is coming into play, everything is coming according to schedule and we have moved on to the operational side of things – actually preparing our operational capabilities and improving our operational capabilities to host the World Cup in 2022.
Question: What is Qatar doing to ensure the 8 stadiums are sustainable and utilised long after the World Cup is over?
Answer: To ensure that the stadiums are sustainable from day one, we ensure during the design stage that first we incorporated feedback from the communities where these stadiums are located. So that each stadium has a specific component making it a destination for the community and for the people surrounding the stadium, so it can be used on a daily basis. So for example in Al Janoub, in Al Bayt, we have parks developed around the stadiums for the community to utilise. In addition we wanted to ensure that there’s no excess capacity within the stadiums that will be under-utilised. So, for example, most of the stadiums for the group stages – actually all the stadiums for the group stages – will be 40,000-seater capacity, they will be reduced, according to the needs that we’ve designated, most of them will be reduced about 20,000-25,000. The remaining seats, the modular seats, will be reconfigured and donated to football developing nations, as part of our contribution to football development.
Question: The Gulf Cup and FIFA Club World Cup were recently held in Qatar – how important were these events when it comes to preparing for the big one in 2022?
Answer: They were very, very important of course throughout our preparations, since we won the right to host the World Cup, up until the Gulf Cup and the Club World Cup, a lot of our plans, a lot of our preparations, were developing the infrastructure, putting into place operational plans, but they were all theoretical. We moved on, towards testing every plan that we put on the ground, through a very gradual phasing of plans, testing different elements, testing different functions, so they were very, very, important milestones for us. We’ve got the 2020 Club World Cup coming up, we have another tournament that we are looking to host in 2021, each one is an important milestone, to test the plans, test us, as individuals as well, our capabilities and I’m very proud to say the conclusion of 2019 was a great success, both in terms of achieving our goals and objectives, seeing what works and what doesn’t work, and how we can we fix it and preparing for 2020, with the lessons learnt. But at the same time, the tournament itself was a great success. It vindicated what we said, that these tournaments are a great opportunity, great festivity for people to get together, they’re a great opportunity for people from different backgrounds and different cultures, to discover, what the Arabic culture, what the Middle Eastern culture truly is about, how hospitable we are, how football crazy we are, and I think it was for us an eye opening moment, but at the same time a celebratory moment as well.
Question: What were the main lessons learned from the Gulf Cup and Club World Cup in terms of security and fan experience?
Answer: I think the main lessons learned during the Gulf Cup and the Club World Cup would have been first, the resilience of the transportation system, but at the same time, we need to put more pressure on the transportation system, to see can it hold, can it stand bigger crowds? Match scheduling, I think is very important during the tournament, understanding how we would schedule matches, between the different events, or the different timings. In terms of security, I think the Club World Cup in 2020 was probably in 2019, one of the first time we had mass crowds, from different walks of life, from different backgrounds coming into the precincts, coming into the stadiums and so on and I think it was a very valuable lesson for our security team. We had incidents for example with the Tarajai (ie Esperance) fans as well where there were a few tense moments where I think our security team handled it very well, even though, this is the very first moments we’ve had these kinds of experiences, and I think it’s set the tone for us for 2020, the areas we need to sit down and develop, the areas we need to sit down and practise on, communicating with the fans, explaining to them, locations, areas, gateways, and listening to them as well, getting the feedback, getting a two-way communication channel, I think that’s essential.
Question: This summer we have the Copa America, Euro 2020 and Tokyo Olympics – how important is it for Qatar to continue to learn from major events of this type?
Answer: It’s absolutely vital, it’s absolutely important, I don’t think we would have been able to be where we are today if it wasn’t for the hospitality and the generosity of previous tournament hosts that have welcomed our teams and have allowed us the opportunity to learn from them, and apply the lessons learned, in Qatar. So Russia, the Euros in France, all these different events that we’ve learnt from, the continuous generosity of UEFA and the Champions league to allow us to attend these events showed that there’s a huge amount of benefit that we can extract from them and accordingly, definitely the Copa America, Tokyo, Euros, all these are vital milestones for us to again learn, to extract that information from people, to build a network where we can rely on people and build on their experiences as well, and we look forward to them.
Question: Finally, when it comes to 2022 – what will success look like for you once the final whistle has been blown?
Answer: Success for me, personally, is people having a great time. Great vibe, great people from different backgrounds and cultures just coming into, whether it’s the Corniche, Musheirb, whether it’s any of the different locations in Qatar, just people from very different walks of life celebrating together, that’s one factor, great football, no doubts about great football. I do believe the compact nature of our tournament. There is no doubt about (there being) great football because I do believe that the compact nature of our tournament will ensure that players will be at their peak performance levels and so you’ll find great football on the pitch and then beyond that. My success measure will be 2024, 2025, 2026, when we can identify individuals that have personally benefited out of these tournaments.
Whether it is companies and entrepreneurs who have been able to grow as a result of their contribution and involvement in 2022 and accordingly jobs being created. Whether it is people who benefit from our projects, such as Generation Amazing, that uses football for development – and you see them being leaders in their community as a result of these projects. Whether it is finding leaders in the sporting industry as a result of some of our initiatives, for example, Josoor Institute, that enhances the skills of people in the sporting industry. Ultimately, and hopefully in 2028 or 2030, you’ll start seeing a growing sporting industry in the region that contributes to job creation, that contributes to empowerment that contributes to improving people’s lives.
Question: It’s been almost 4,000 days since Qatar launched the bid, and we only have 1,000 days to go, tell us how you feel as we get closer to kick off?
Answer: With 1,000 days to go, I mean now that you just mentioned the numbers, 4,000 days, that makes me realise, wow, that is a long time, it’s only 4,000 days?! There’s no doubts about it, there is absolute excitement, there’s a lot of excitement, but there is also obviously the good kind of anxiety burning in the belly. Sometimes that fire is great because it warms you up, it energises you, it pushes you forward. And its excitement, it’s absolute excitement.
I mean, ten years of our lives have been dedicated to this, day in and day out. With 1,000 days to go we can only, well at least for me personally, I can only look at it with excitement, trepidation, anxiety, but more importantly, conviction that this will be, without a doubt, the best tournament. The first World Cup in the Middle East, in the Arab world will set a benchmark in the history of hosting major tournaments.
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