In 2022, Qatar will be the first Middle Eastern nation to host the FIFA World Cup–a highly anticipated month-long event that has been known to provide economic expansion for host nations; but the difference between Qatar and some previous host countries is that long-term planning has been at the forefront of the process from the start
The institution in charge of delivering infrastructure as well as supervising preparations for the tournament is the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, led by Secretary General Hassan Abdullah Al Thawadi. “We are confident that the early progress we have made leaves us in an excellent position to deliver on the promises we made to the international football community during our successful bid,” says Mr. Al Thawadi.
The Committee is made up of a team from across the globe and has more than 40 nationalities represented. The group is working not only to deliver infrastructure on time, but also to work towards the National Vision 2030, which is focused on building an international reputation of excellence and promoting sport throughout the world.
Among the arenas being built are “a couple of stadiums that will be fully dismantled after 2022.” The large 40,000-plus capacities are ideal for the World Cup, but not for general usage after all of the fans have gone back to their respective countries. But, on top of maintaining feasible stadium space, Qatar is going one step further and repurposing stadium seats in a unique way as well. “We pledged to donate approximately 170,000 modular seats to countries in need of sporting infrastructure at the conclusion of the event,” says Mr. Al Thawadi.
Winners of The Workers’ Cup lift the trophy in May this year
The improvements and preparations for 2022 will stretch well beyond the soccer matches and will benefit the nation of Qatar and the region. For many, going to Qatar for a soccer match could potentially be their first time in the Middle East. This will also be the first year that the event will be held from mid-November to mid-December instead of the traditional summer dates, with the final taking place on December 18, 2022, which is Qatar’s National Day.
Qatar is the smallest nation by area and by population to ever be awarded the World Cup, and it is tasked with hosting 32 teams for 28 days in eight new stadiums under development. Private sector entities and government bodies are currently building the infrastructure, and all parties involved are stressing the importance of the conditions of the workers on the projects.
Mr. Al Thawadi explains that the Kafala system will be abolished in November and will be replaced “with a contractual agreement between employer and employee.” Previously employers sponsored workers, and the region has been subject to criticism from human rights organizations for this system. Mr. Al Thawadi comments, “A wage protection system was enacted into law in November 2015 compelling private companies to open bank accounts for all employees and to transfer wages electronically and on time. Monitoring and enforcement mechanisms are being strengthened on a continuous basis – labor inspector numbers have been increased, site inspections have been increased, and scrutiny of recruitment agents has been increased.”
The workers also had a unique opportunity to participate in their own soccer tournament called The Workers’ Cup, which was held in Doha between March and May this year. Both FIFA and the Supreme Committee are dedicated to generating sustainable conditions for the workers who are helping make the 2022 event possible.
A uniting force
Qatar is committed to making their nation hospitable and welcoming for people from around the world. During the last two World Cup events, fans from the U.S. purchased more tickets than those from any other nation. U.S. companies have had a presence in Qatar for several decades, but the region has not previously been a tourist destination. U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith says, “We have governments around the world thinking 24 hours a day, seven days a week, about how to counter violent extremism, how to bring East and West together, how to achieve mutual understanding between people. This is a region of hundreds and millions of young people, and World Cup is going to be a source of pride for them.”
“Arab countries want Qatar to host a successful World Cup,” adds Chairman of Woqod (Qatar Fuel), Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.
“This will convey the right message that Arabs have the capability to compete with other developed countries like Germany, the U.S. and Argentina . Arabs are able to compete with other regions like Europe and America in hosting such a reputable championship.”
Corporate social responsibility
Woqod is one of the key companies working to ensure the success of the World Cup in Qatar. The company also advocates for the growth of the knowledge-based economy that the National Vision 2030 seeks to create. Mr. Al-Thani explains, “We continually endeavor to make positive contributions to our society and environment. As part of our corporate responsibility initiatives, we sponsor many students and programs within Qatar University and Qatar Foundation. Working with research institutions within Qatar Foundation helps us to integrate and absorb the new ideas. We support the institutions financially and provide internship programs.”
Woqod is not alone in supporting the development of youth in the region. The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy has launched an initiative called Challenge 22, a program that hopes to inspire bright minds to contribute to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. “Young innovators and entrepreneurs present their ideas, and those with the best ideas are connected with research and development teams from top universities in order to assist in transforming their concepts to reality,” according to the Committee.
Fostering creativity and original ideas are what both the government and private sector believe will lead to a lasting economy in Qatar. The Committee says, “Challenge 22 symbolizes a window into the young talent that we have in our region, and the hunger and desire that exists to develop that talent. The first pilot edition was aimed at the Gulf nations, and this year we are expanding it to the wider Middle East and we aim to continue that expansion.”
The Committee is also responsible for founding the Josoor Institute, an academic center of excellence for the sporting industry. ‘Josoor’ is the Arabic word for ‘bridges’ and signifies the link the founders see between the importance of education and creating a foundation for those in the sporting industry that have not yet begun their endeavors. “Josoor provides these young professionals with a network, and serves as a vehicle for these individuals to benefit from the job creation and economic boost that we believe the 2022 World Cup can inspire,” says Mr. Al Thawadi. The institute collaborates with Georgetown University, Liverpool University, Leeds Beckett University, and Wasserman Media Group, among others.
The development of a knowledge-based economy in Qatar is proving to be a strong point of the nation, creating stability in an area that is traditionally challenged by political unrest. Ambassador Smith comments, “If you look at the map where Qatar is, it is in the middle of a stormy region. There is conflict in almost every direction, as well as powerful neighbors. In the midst of this, Qatar is a country looking to the future. People here are thinking about education, the future, innovation and empowering youth.”
Dr. Thani Abdulrahman Al Kuwari, the Secretary General of the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC), has been focusing on building a future society based on the National Vision 2030 by incorporating sports. “Sport can make a major contribution to developing people by providing new skills, educating through the values of sport, and promoting active and healthy lifestyles,” he says.
Part of the vision for developing Qatar also involves building the image of the country so that it will be recognized and respected on a global scale. Dr. Al Kuwari explains, “Whilst a focus on hosting international sport helps to raise the profile of a country globally, the QOC’s focus is on using sport to support the development not only of our nation, but also the wider region and the world. We want to use our resources, knowledge and experience to be a trailblazer for sports development.”
“A wage protection system was enacted into law. Monitoring and enforcement mechanisms are being strengthened on a continuous basis – labor inspector numbers have been increased, site inspections have been increased, and scrutiny of recruitment agents has been increased”
Hassan Abdullah Al Thawadi,
Secretary General, Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy
The QOC has constructed several programs and facilities like the Qatar Olympic Academy, Aspetar Sports Medicine Hospital, and the Anti-Doping Lab Qatar to increase the reach of sport throughout the region. Organizations like these are the first of their kind in the Middle East and are helping to spread awareness and increase participation in sport.
The Schools Olympic Program was developed 10 years ago and more than 29,000 students participated over the last school year. Not only does it help identify young talented athletes, the program has also served as model for other countries from across the region. Dr. Al Kuwari says, “We are now seeing countries from across the region developing their own models based on Qatar’s success.” The QOC also founded the Aspire Academy for Sporting Excellence in 2004. In fact, Qatar can boast its first Olympic silver medalist, high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim, as a graduate.
Cultivating the culture of sport was well under way before Qatar won the bid to host the World Cup in 2022 but now that the opportunity has been won, Dr. Al Kuwari says it is “just one of many global sporting events that Qatar will be hosting over the next few years.” The World Cup is a catalyst for the promotion of other sports and will bring other competitions like the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in Athletics to Qatar in 2019.
Private sector is key
The private sector is crucial in joining the efforts of the government to help the growth of events in the region. The Ali Bin Ali Group is a one of the largest retail and distribution companies in Qatar and has business streams ranging from contracting and property management to luxury and fashion and medical supplies. Chairman Adel Ali bin Ali Al Muslimani is excited for the opportunity for the country. He recalls, “You know how during pivotal moments in history people always remember where they were and what they did. The night where we heard that Qatar would be hosting the World Cup 2022 was a moment like that. It was a moment I will not forget. There were tears and there was joy. Everyone recognized that the bidding committee had done a great job. Hosting the World Cup in a small country like Qatar was a dream, but it became true. I have no doubt that we are up to the challenge and as promised we can deliver an amazing World Cup.”
Mr. Al Muslimani shares the outlook of many in his country, saying, “With the World Cup we will not only see Qatar’s people, locals and expatriates, but the people of the whole region uniting and coming together in a spirit of friendship and sportsmanship. I believe we are perfectly prepared to meet all of FIFA’s expectations.” Plans are well under way for Qatar to break onto the global stage of sport.