Qatar’s tumultuous journey to the 2022 World Cup continues

Sunday 07/05/2017
Moving ahead. Construction at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. (AFP)

London - Qatar’s turbulent road to hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup is moving forward with the ex­pected completion of one of the stadiums renovated and expanded especially for the inter­national football tournament.
Organisers said the 7,800 sq. me­tre Khalifa International Stadium in the Al Waab settlement will be ready in May. They boasted that the stadium’s pitch was laid out in record time of less than 14 hours.
The 40,000-seat stadium, which will host matches up to the World Cup quarterfinals, was supposed to have been completed late last year. However, organisers announced in the fourth quarter of 2016 that the stadium would not be ready on schedule but gave no reason for the setback. They set a new expected completion of the first quarter of 2017. They said the “delay will, of course, bear no impact on the FIFA tournament.”
Qatar’s government-controlled media hailed the completion of the Khalifa International Stadium, la­belling it an achievement and a vic­tory but the question remains as to whether Doha can complete other venues, which are being built from scratch, in time for the 2022 event.
As declining oil prices have tak­en their toll on Doha and the rest of the region, the Qatari govern­ment announced in April that it intended to slash its budget for hosting the World Cup by 40-50%, said Hassan al-Thawadi, secretary-general of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery and Lega­cy (SCDL).
“We wanted to ensure there is financial responsibility in rela­tion to the infrastructure relating to the World Cup,” Thawadi told CNNMoney.
“That’s why we had set an initial budget early on and made a com­mitment towards reducing it as the market became clearer, as the pro­ject became clearer, as we define the scope.”
He said the cost of hosting the World Cup would be $8 billion-$10 billion, adding that the initial pro­posal for 12 stadiums would likely be reduced to eight.
“FIFA has not yet agreed on the final number and we are in dis­cussions with them to finalise the final number of stadiums that will fit the operating model of Qatar 2022,” Thawadi said.
“We are moving ahead with eight stadiums and in case discus­sions go on there might be an extra stadium to be developed.”
The treatment of the migrant workers building of the World Cup facilities has faced increased scru­tiny and criticism. In March, the International Labour Organisation, a UN agency, gave Qatar an addi­tional eight months to improve its treatment of the workers or face sanctions.
A report commissioned by the SCDL stated that some labourers working on the World Cup stadi­ums were putting in 18-hour days, more than twice what is permitted by law. Ten contracting compa­nies surveyed for the report failed to give their employees any days off during the week, with some labourers working as many as 148 consecutive days.