Doha (AFP) – Holding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is a “done deal”, a confident head of the Gulf state’s tournament organising committee said Monday, shrugging off ongoing corruption and human rights concerns.
Hassan al-Thawadi, secretary-general of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, told the local Arabic daily Al-Sharq newspaper that football’s biggest tournament will go ahead in the Middle East despite calls elsewhere for Qatar to be stripped of hosting rights.
“The 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar, the first in a Middle Eastern, Arab and Muslim country,” said Al-Thawadi.
“It is a done deal.”
He added that World Cup organisers in the Gulf had a “generally positive” relationship with FIFA, football’s governing body.
Qatar is the subject of an ongoing corruption investigation being carried out by Switzerland’s Attorney General office.
Launched in May 2015, the Swiss legal team is investigating the bidding process amid allegations of corruption for the 2022 World Cup — and the 2018 tournament in Russia.
But Al-Thawadi told Al-Sharq that Qatar had nothing to fear.
“I am totally confident our file is clean,” he said.
Qatar also faces continued criticism from human rights groups over the treatment of its labour force helping to build World Cup venues and related infrastructure.
That issue is likely to come into focus again next month when Qatar is expected to announce the end of its much-criticised “kafala” labour system, the source of much criticism.
“Kafala”, which places restrictions on workers’ ability to change jobs and travel, is to be replaced by a contract system.
However, this is unlikely to placate critics, who have accused Doha of not going far enough with reforms.
The issue of worker-safety is also ongoing.
Last month Qatar announced its first “work-related” death in regard to the World Cup, when a labourer died at the Al-Wakrah Stadium.
“What concerns us now is that this accident is not to be repeated. There is a comprehensive investigation at the moment and we are going to finish it soon,” said Al-Thawadi.
He also tackled the thorny issue of venue numbers and said organisers would like to see eight stadiums used during the 2022 World Cup.
FIFA told AFP last week that a final decision on the number of venues had been pushed back until next year at the earliest.
Qatar’s successful bid for the tournament allowed for up to 12 stadiums to be used in 2022.
“We are confident that we will not be asked to implement twelve stadiums,” he said. “We feel that eight stadiums is enough for Qatar.”
So far, Qatar has said it will spend up to $10 billion (9 billion euros) on stadium construction.
If eight stadiums are eventually used it will mean the 2022 finals will have the smallest number of venues at any tournament since Argentina in 1978.
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