The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is underway. It is being held in the GCC country of Qatar on the Arabian Peninsula. Indeed this is a monumental achievement for the Arab country. But that achievement and pride are equally shared in the rest of the GCC countries, who look at the event as a portal for many others to come, possibly to their own countries.
Qatar has gone into the history books as the first country in the Middle East to host this global event and had gone to great lengths to ensure the best possible facilities for its expected avalanche of players, coaches, and fans from across the globe.
As many as 32 teams have qualified from the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia and they along with their supporters will be making their appearance, many for the first time in the region.
For the past 12 years, Qatar has been very busy with the construction of seven brand-new venues to host the games as well as the refurbishment of the only existing stadium that was in place at the time Qatar won the bid to host the World Cup.
The proximity of the stadiums is a boon to players and coaches alike as it dramatically reduces travel time to and back from the playing venues. Most of the stadiums are in or around Doha, with just one — the 60,000-seat Al Bayt Stadium — elsewhere, in Al Khor City, slightly to the north.
Nearly $6.5 billion was spent by Qatar on the construction of some world’s most state-of-the-art stadiums, employing the very latest building technology.
The Doha Stadium, for example, situated on a man-made peninsula and has a capacity for around 45,000 people, uses water as its primary energy source. Qatar has gone beyond the norm to ensure that all its visitors are welcome and in a true sporting spirit.
Naysayers and cynics
But the detractors in the western media have not let up on their relentless attacks on the tiny nation. Through unfair reporting, they tried to fuel a ‘boycott Doha’ campaign that appears to be falling flat on their faces. As recently as two weeks ago at the German Bundesliga matches, “Boycott banners” were hoisted up by some vested interests but nothing worked for the naysayers.
Qatar has not stayed quiet. “We are annoyed by the double standards,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, foreign minister of Qatar said in an interview with a leading German newspaper, claiming that Qatar had faced a systematic campaign against it in the 12 years since being selected to host the World Cup that he said no other country had faced.
“It is ironic when this tone is struck in countries in Europe that call themselves liberal democracies. It sounds very arrogant, frankly, and very racist,” he told the newspaper.
Indeed, and why should Qatar go on the defensive? Yes, conditions during the construction of the stadiums were sometimes harsh as is the case in many mega projects around the world. Yes, spending eight or nine months in this desert region — and facing harsh conditions — applied to all.
The truth be told, every causality leaves behind loved ones and one should not forget that. Yet accidents on major projects, stretching over a decade or more, have taken place in many places.
In the US, canal projects had the highest total of construction worker deaths with 163,609 deaths in only four projects. Railway projects also had a large number with 107,200 spread across the nation’s railroad projects.
The construction of the Panama Canal is by far the deadliest construction project a total of 30,609 deaths and yet no governments were held to censure because of the intolerable working conditions or deaths.
Time and again countries in the region are brought to task for hosting events on a global scale. And in many cases, the attacks are relentless and unsubstantiated.
To the millions of football fans who love the beautiful game of football, it is time to sit back and relish the action at Qatar World Cup.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena