The countdown to World Cup 2022 has begun. The clock is ticking down on the opening match, almost 12 years since Qatar was awarded hosting rights for football’s showpiece tournament.
On November 20, the first World Cup to be held in the Arab world will kick off with the host nation playing Ecuador.
It marks the culmination of Qatar’s extraordinary campaign to first win the vote to host the tournament and then embark on a spending spree of tens of billions of dollars to build stadiums and infrastructure.
Holding the event in a desert state has necessitated an unprecedented reorganisation of the international football calendar, shifting the World Cup from its normal slot in the northern hemisphere summer to avoid the Gulf country’s scorching heat.
The country of barely three million people, one of the world’s biggest producers of natural gas, has spent lavishly.
New stadiums cost more than $6.5bn and a driverless metro rail system with a price tag of $36bn serves five of the eight venues.
Some estimates put total infrastructure spending over the past decade at more than $200bn.
Organisers have estimated more than 1.2 million fans will travel to Qatar. They have responded to concerns about a lack of accommodation by using three cruise ships as floating hotels. They are fully booked for the first two weeks of the tournament.
Some 2.9 million of the 3.1 million tickets have been sold, organisers said, and fans have been waiting outside the FIFA ticketing centre hoping that scarce tickets will become available for the top games.