What Qatar 2022 can learn from Brazil

The Qatari observer mission visits Brazil 2014 World Cup to learn from its successes and mistakes.

Qatar is confident that it will keep the 2022 World Cup despite bribery allegations [EPA]

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Qatar has sent a team of representatives to the Brazil 2014 World Cup to experience first hand how the mass event is being organised.

The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the government body responsible for organising the football tournament in Qatar, put together the “observer mission”, in which about 140 representatives from Qatar travelled to Brazil to learn from the event.

Qatari government agencies including the public works authority and electricity and water corporation, as well as Qatar’s internal security forces, have joined the observer mission and are gathering data from the Brazilian experience.

Major engineering firms based in Qatar, among them the US consultancy giant CH2MHill – responsible for the programme management of the Qatar 2022 World Cup – have also joined the mission to inspect Brazilian stadiums and other major infrastructure related to the World Cup.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Sao Paulo, Juan Ruiz, spokesperson for the Supreme Committee, said the mission went through a great learning curve while in Brazil.

“It is great to see everything coming together here in Brazil but also in Qatar, where we’ve started building the first stadium in Al Wakrah. Things are finally materialising,” Ruiz said.

Hend Zainal, head of marketing at the Qatar Tourism Authority, who was part of the observer mission, told Al Jazeera that eight years would be more than enough time for Qatar to get ready for the tournament.

Addressing the differences between Brazil 2014 and Qatar 2022 – for example the Qatari alcohol restrictions – Zainal said: “The Qatari government has already announced it would allow for a certain level of freedom during the tournament.”

“The government is going to deliver what it has promised. But it will all be in the spirit of the host country itself. We will introduce our guests to the culture of Qatar, like Brazil is doing with its visitors,” Zainal said.

Corruption claims

The mission to Brazil suggests that the Qataris remain confident about keeping the 2022 World Cup in their country, despite being at the centre of a row over alleged corruption during the controversial bidding process for the tournament.

Media reports have suggested that Mohammed Bin Hammam, a disgraced former FIFA executive from Qatar, bribed several other FIFA executive committee members to vote for the Gulf country in the elections for the host nations back in 2010.

FIFA’s own Ethics Committee is currently investigating the bidding process and is scheduled to report its findings after the Brazil World Cup comes to an end in mid-July. 

One of Brazil’s largest newspapers, Folha de Sao Paulo, wrote last week that FIFA President Sepp Blatter has already received the outcome of the investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee into the bidding process.

The newspaper claimed, without naming sources, that after seeing evidence of corruption, Blatter intends to take the tournament away from Qatar and will re-launch the bidding process for the 2022 World Cup.

Speaking to high-placed representatives of the Qatari contracting landscape, Al Jazeera learned that none of the stakeholders publicly expressed doubt over whether the World Cup will be held in Qatar.

“The only one who should be worried about that FIFA report is Bin Hammam,” one director of a stakeholder contracting company – who wished to remain anonymous – told Al Jazeera.

“There is no question that the 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar. The only thing that would be nice to know, still, is if the tournament will be held in the winter or the summer,” he said.

The Furnace of Fortaleza

Speaking to Al Jazeera in Rio de Janeiro, the Supreme Committee maintains it continues to organise the Qatar 2022 World Cup in the summer, even though average temperatures in July reach over 41 degrees Celsius.

During a round of 16 match in Fortaleza between the Netherlands and Mexico on Sunday, temperatures reached 39 degrees, prompting FIFA – for the first time in World Cup history – to interrupt the match for two cooling-down time-outs.

Most fans sitting in direct sunlight in the stadium left their seats to follow the match from the stands. After the match – described by some as the Furnace of Fortaleza – Mexico’s head coach Miguel Herrera said that the spectators “did not see a worthy show” because of the high temperature.

“Even for such a good team as the Netherlands, the high temperature slowed their pace. You cannot perform at the same level for 90 minutes in such heat. The sun and humidity will suffocate you,” Herrera said.

In Brazil, the Supreme Committee reiterated that it has successfully tested hi-tech cooling systems, which will be installed in the Qatari stadiums and fan sites, even as FIFA’s Blatter already signalled that the 2022 World Cup should not take place in the summer.

“After many discussions, deliberations and critical review of the entire matter, I came to the conclusion that playing the World Cup in the heat of Qatar’s summer was simply not a responsible thing to do,” Blatter said in September last year.

Blatter has said that a decision on when the 2022 World Cup will be held is not expected before 2015.


Follow David Poort on Twitter: @davidpoort 

Source: Al Jazeera