KEIR RADNEDGE in MANCHESTER: Qatar’s World Cup organisers are so confident of being cleared by the Garcia Report that they are working as hard as ever on preparations to host the 2022 finals.
Garcia, FIFA’s independent ethics investigator, has just delivered to judge Hans-Joachim Eckert a 350-page report summing up his two-year inquiry into the 2018-2022 bid scandals.
Russia was awarded 2018 and Qatar 2022 by the FIFA executive committee in December 2010 and reverberations have rumbled on ever since.
Debate over the bidding achievement by the Gulf state, smallest nation ever handed the finals, has been exacerbated by controversies over both the timing and construction workers’ rights.
However the Soccerex Global Convention heard that Qatar’s confidence in being exonerated of allegations over the bid was such that preparations might even be completed ahead of time.
Nasser Al-Khater, communications direction for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, said: “We’ve always been confident of our position in the way we carried ourselves during the bidding stage.
“Also, we’re 500 people-strong working tirelessly day in and day out and I think that’s an answer to the question.”
He said aircooling systems had been tested successfully in a fan zone and a training camp site and work on the metro network was “in full swing.”
He added: “Two of the new stadia are under construction and three more will be started before the end of the year. We’re ahead of schedule in terms of infrastructure and sports facilities and I’m optimistic we will be delivering ahead of time.”
Al-Khater accepted that issues remained but insisted: “We are not running away from problems. There are significant challenges when it comes to issues of workers rights and we’ve always said the World Cup will be a catalyst for change in our society.
“All this will take time. It will not happen overnight. But we will see signicant progress.”
He conceded: “We’ve become wiser in politics and social issues. We’ve always known, because we were awarded the World Cup 12 years ahead, something of what we were going to have to withstand but such a level of scrutiny and degree of criticism I did not expect.”
One of the allegations raised earlier this year by The Sunday Times concerned the role at the time of Mohamed Bin Hammam, a Qatari who was president of the Asian confederation at the time of the bid.
Al-Khater said: “He was not involved with the World Cup bid. He was a FIFA executive committee member – one of 24 people we had to lobby. He just happened to come from the same country.”