One year to go, the Qatar World Cup is still in the spotlight | Sports News



By ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer

The eight stadiums – all located within a 30-mile radius of Doha – are now largely complete. The 2022 World Cup has been preserved after fending off hostility from neighbors, corruption investigations and concerns about worker abuse. From now on, a clock on the Corniche seafront in the Qatari capital will be unveiled on Sunday to count down one year until kick-off.

Expect another 12 months of pressure from rights groups – fueled by protests from players – and outrage from some World Cup organizers.

“Qatar has been treated and monitored unfairly for several years,” CEO of the organizing committee, Nasser Al Khater, said on Saturday.

This scrutiny, however, has produced improvements to labor laws under the weight of criticism of working conditions since the country’s $ 200 billion in infrastructure upgrades began after the FIFA vote in December 2010.

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“You take it in the context of the region,” Al Khater told reporters, “I think Qatar is a pioneer right now with all the reforms it has undertaken, whether on workers’ standards, accommodation standards, the introduction of the minimum wage. “

In some cases, it was the World Cup organizing committee that introduced changes before the country as a whole, but enforcing laws and conditions workers face – especially in the summer heatwave – remains a source of concern for the groups.

Qatar did not provide full details and data on the deaths of migrant workers, especially from South Asia, who are relied on to build infrastructure across the country. Amnesty International has stressed the need for further investigation into the cause of death, the lack of the right to form unions and the need for all companies to comply with new laws stating that workers should be allowed to leave their jobs. without the employer’s permission.

“There are criticisms,” Al Khater said. “There is work to be done. There is however a lot of progress, but unfortunately this has not been taken into account in reports such as Amnesty, Human Rights Watch. “

Twelve countries, plus Qatar as hosts, have so far qualified for the 32-team event. Denmark have said their Qatar training kit will contain critical human rights messages, ensuring the tournament will feature player activism.

Construction work begins to stop.

“The eight stadiums for the World Cup are full,” said Al Khater.

Seven venues are now ready to host matches, with Stadium 974 being built using this number of shipping containers which will be inaugurated later this month at the FIFA Arab Cup, which serves as a test event for world Cup.

A 40-minute drive north, fans head to the 80,000-seat Losail Stadium, which will host the final on December 18, 2022, but is not ready for games. Also nearby is the Losail International Circuit where reigning Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton said ahead of the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday that the country still had a “long way to go” to secure equality.

Hamilton wears a rainbow-colored helmet in Qatar to draw attention to anti-LGBTQ + laws that World Cup organizers are effectively suggesting not to enforce during the tournament.

“Everyone is welcome to come to Qatar and have a good time at the World Cup,” said Al Khater. “They can come and enjoy their time here without fear of any kind of repercussions, it makes no difference to (sexual) orientation, religion, belief, race of people.”

Al Khater said any couple can share a hotel room.

“I don’t know if this is a misconception,” he said. “I don’t know where you know where you got this from. I mean, everyone is free to stay in a hotel, whether it is with their friend, with their partner.

The challenge for supporters could still be to afford the trip. Even though this is a World Cup requiring no flights between matches, the demand for accommodation could be stretched in the small Gulf country. What helps fans is being able to stay in neighboring countries, including the United Arab Emirates, after lifting this year the economic, diplomatic and travel boycott of Qatar that had been in effect since 2017.

“The ultimate goal is to have a successful World Cup and you can only have a successful World Cup if you have fans present,” Al Khater said. “So that was taken into consideration to make sure that there is plenty of accommodation and that there is accommodation available for all budgets.”

Fans will travel months later than usual for the World Cup. The opening on November 21, 2022, with the final on December 18, remains controversial as Europe’s big leagues finalize start dates for a season so heavily disrupted for the first time by the World Cup.

Qatar presented their candidacy for the World Cup on FIFA terms for the usual period from June to July, with the schedule change only being decided after the vote. The now widely discredited FIFA leadership committee which voted by a majority for Qatar has ignored concerns about the heat.

This vote remained under the cloud of corruption.

FIFA-commissioned investigation highlighted unease among investigators examining Qatar’s methods of winning the vote, but concluded that there was “no evidence of inappropriate activity on the part of the bid team “. US lawyer Michael Garcia said, however, that some of Qatar’s behavior “may not meet the standards” required by FIFA.

New allegations of wrongdoing surfaced last year when U.S. prosecutors revealed new details about the alleged bribes paid by Qatar for votes. According to an indictment, Nicolás Leoz, then president of the South American governing body CONMEBOL, and former president of the Brazilian federation Ricardo Teixeira received bribes to vote for Qatar.

“All of these investigations have shown us that Qatar has been unsuccessful in all the allegations against it,” said Al Khater, when asked about the allegations that emerged from the US District Court in Brooklyn. “So whatever you are referring to, I categorically deny it. “

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