Qatar powers ahead with World Cup preparations

Qatar plans to spend $225 billion (212 billion euros) on new infrastructure, the Qatar National Bank estimated in a report in September.

AFP| Updated: Dec 01, 2015, 22:00 PM IST
Qatar powers ahead with World Cup preparations

Doha: Battered by criticism over human rights, facing investigation over corruption and the financial fallout from an energy price slump, Qatar is forging ahead with multi-billion dollar work on the 2022 World Cup.

Five years on from being controversially awarded the right to host the world`s most-watched sporting event, World Cup organisers say construction has begun on six of at least eight venues that will be in used in 2022, including preparatory work on an 80,000-seater stadium in Lusail where the final will be held.

Lusail is a new $45 billion city being built 15 kilometres (10 miles) north of Doha. 

Qatar will even complete work on the first ground, the 40,000-seater Khalifa International Stadium -- the venue for the 2019 World Athletics Championships -- by the end of 2016, six years before the first game will be played, boast World Cup officials .

Elsewhere, work has begun on the Al Rayyan stadium, the Qatar Foundation Stadium and the Al Wakrah stadium -- which takes "the dhow boats that carried generations of Qatari fishermen and pearl divers" to sea as a design inspiration.

All are 40,000 seat venues, which will host matches up to the quarter-finals.

Also underway is work at the Al Bayt Stadium. This 60,000 capacity venue will host one of the World Cup semi-finals.

A final decision will be taken by FIFA at the end of the year about how many stadium will be used in 2022.

The work can be monitored and overseen on CCTV by some of the more than 400 members of Qatar`s World Cup organising team from an all-white space-age control room in their skyscraper Al Bidda Tower headquarters on the Doha waterfront.

"Great progress has been made so far in preparations," Nasser Al-Khater, assistant general secretary of Qatar`s organising committee, said last month. "Since winning the bid in 2010, incredible amounts of work have gone in."

Qatar plans to spend $225 billion (212 billion euros) on new infrastructure, the Qatar National Bank estimated in a report in September, much of which will be used during the World Cup.

Despite Qatar looking for potential budget cuts elsewhere, spending on the World Cup is protected, finance minister Ali Sherif Al-Emadi said this year. 

Most notable of the huge projects underway is the Doha Metro, estimated to cost around $36 billion. 

This will begin running in 2019 in an attempt to alleviate Qatar`s congested roads. So far 21 boring machines have carved away 60 percent of the 113 kilometres (70 miles) of tunnels needed for the network.

The plan is to have 37 stations operating in four years, say World Cup officials. A tram line will be built to Lusail.

There are also new roads and a new docks being built in the west of Qatar. 

Among others projects is a vast almost $5 billion reservoir programme designed to help conserve water in the desert state.

World Cup organisers claim up to one million people will visit Qatar in November and December 2022, when the tournament will be staged.

A new airport -- the $17 billion Hamad International -- is already in use.

Even the national football team seems to have caught the preparation bug and could qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time for the 2018 tournament.

However, flooding at the end of November exposed flaws in some of the major projects, including several leaks allowing in rainwater at the airport.

This prompted an investigation by the Qatari prime minister, the threat of criminal procedures and a ban on potential defendants leaving the country.