DOHA: Hasssan Al Thawadi, the face of Qatar’s World Cup ambitions back since the earliest bidding days, remains as positive as ever about the prospects for the 2022 finals in the Gulf state writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The secretary-general of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy has also acknowledged that criticism of Qatar’s World Cup project had been “particularly intense.”

He complained: “We became the victim of a campaign that singled out Qatar and our successful bid without any shred of evidence. We’ve had to live with that for five years but there has still been no evidence to suggest our bid committee did anything wrong.”

Early this year the Swiss judicial authorities launched an inquiry into the circumstances of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup awards to Russia and Qatar by the executive committee of world football federation FIFA.

More than 130 banking transactions are being examined, independently of the FIFAGate corruption case being run by the United States Department of Justice. However, the Qataris have not been approached by either country.

Al Thawadi said: “We have not been contacted by the US Department of Justice or the office of the Swiss Attorney General in relation to their investigations.

“We cooperated fully with [former FIFA investigator] Michael Garcia’s ethics committee investigation and intend to do the same should there be any request from the American or Swiss authorities.

Construction concerns

“We maintain that we conducted our bid ethically and with integrity, strictly adhering to all rules and regulations of the bidding process.​”

Apart from the bidding issue, Qatar has come under heavy criticism over contract restrictions and living and working conditions among its immigrant labour force.

Al Thawadi insisted that part of the challenge was the speed of change in Qatar itself but that the World Cup organisation had put in place labour standards which should serve as an example for the rest of the Gulf state to follow.

He said: “Both the Supreme Committee and the government are taking the right steps to deliver a sustainable solution to the challenges faced in Qatar.

“No-one in Qatar denies these challenges exist but . . . the government recently demonstrated their commitment with the announcement of labour reforms, which shows the determination to use this tournament as a catalyst for social progress.

“These reforms may not be coming quick enough for some people but our focus is on sustainable change . . . Our workers’ welfare standards ensure the highest level of health and safety on all of our stadiums.

“The welfare of our workers is of paramount importance and we simply do not compromise our high standards. I just wish the same could be said of some of the media outlets who report these false claims.”

Finally, Al Thawadi had no fears that the current turbulence within FIFA would rebound against Qatar’s hosting.

He said: “We welcome the reforms FIFA has proposed [and] strongly believe that hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup in the Middle East is more necessary than ever considering the global political climate.”

The full interview

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