Doha: It was somewhere in the middle of August when my friend called about the confirmation mail he got for the Qatar World Cup tickets. Our luck to watch the biggest showpiece on earth live had finally come true. This was the first time a football World Cup graced the Middle East and the excitement began to kick in.
Before we could make it to Doha we had to sort out quite a few things including the Hayya card, travel and stay bookings which initially looked confusing and tedious.
At the same time I kept reading articles on how Qatar will be able to host an event of this magnitude. How will they be able to handle the massive crowd? How will they manage the logistics?
But all those doubts were put to rest the day we arrived in Doha. The immigration at the airport was a breeze. Despite thousands of people pouring into the country for the mega event, the airports were well equipped to handle the crowds.
Our first match was on the same day on December 1 between Japan and Spain in Group E – a game that turned out to be a crucial one for both the teams that also saw Germany getting knocked out. The second was the following day between Serbia and Switzerland.
Given the rush we had arrived at the stadium for our first match almost three hours in advance. But that wasn’t necessary given the way it was all so well managed. Each stadium had more than two dozen gates to enter and hundreds of volunteers guiding the spectators to the gates. The security checks were brisk and you were treated to a lot of entertainment around the stadium before you could settle down for the game.
Inside the stadium, another set of volunteers were always there to guide you to your seats while heavy security personnel were deployed to ensure nothing untoward happens. A short but grand opening kicks off in every match to enthrall fans before the action begins. The live DJ during the match also makes the atmosphere all the more reverberating.
The real challenge the authorities faced was ensuring smooth exit of the spectators after every match. With nearly 50,000 people stepping out of the stadium at the same time it could be a serious challenge for the security to manage it. But it was really very impressive the way things panned out. A proper human barricade was set up to guide people all the way towards the public transport. There were also frequent announcements to ensure they don’t lose their way.
We chose to go by the metro on both occasions and despite the walk to the station taking nearly an hour and a half we had no complaints. The crowd was released in batches to ensure there was no panic. Once in the station the metro service was free for all.
It was not just the stadiums that saw the rush. The fan zone, the Corniche and open restaurants screening the world cup matches all saw a huge influx of people but it was all well covered.
After three days of memorable stay in Doha as we headed back home I was amazed how Qatar managed to silence all those critics who doubted its capabilities to pull off such a feat. Kudos to a job well done.