Works still underway and several questions about prices and conditions for visitors: it is part of the landscape in Qatar 200 days before the first whistle for the first World Cup in an Arab country, from November 21 to December 18.
The eight stadiums (seven new and one renovated) are already ready. But throughout Doha, instead, an army of migrant workers is busily completing numerous works.
FIFA is “convinced that fans will find optimal conditions”, but they do not share that opinion.
“Since 1998 it has been the most logistically complicated World Cup,” lamented Ronan Evain, director-general of the Football Supporters Europe association, in words to AFP.
“The complicated part is getting information from the organizing committee. There is a lot of confusion,” says Fabien Bonnel, spokesman for the French fan group ‘Irrésistibles Français’ (IF).
They assure that many will not go to the tournament due to logistical and budgetary reasons, in reaction to the situation of migrant workers or not to sit in an air-conditioned stadium.
In 2018, “in Russia, 600 members (of the IFs) were in at least one match. For Qatar we have only received a hundred requests,” says Fabien Bonnel.
The price of tickets (on average 30% more expensive than in Russia), transport and accommodation are among the main concerns.
200 days before the start, around 1,500 euros (about 1,600 dollars) cost a round trip from Europe, but many will not know before May 31 if they will have a ticket or not.
While fans usually find their accommodation solution themselves, most establishments are gathered on an official platform reserved for ticket holders.
“At the moment (fans) see prices go up without knowing at what point they will stop,” Ronan Evain worries.
“The accommodation portal (…) is constantly updated and ‘stocks’ will be kept for fans who have not yet obtained their tickets,” the World Cup organizing committee responds to AFP.
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In total, 130,000 rooms will be available, which implies 3.64 million overnight stays, in hotels, apartments, villas, cruise ships, or camps, starting at 77 euros (81 dollars) per person in a double room.
“In previous World Cups, there was a lot of talk about infrastructure delays. Here everything is ready,” which raises other questions, says Danyel Reiche, who is in charge of a World Cup research project at Georgetown University in Qatar.
For this researcher, who anticipates “a nice World Cup” thanks to the quality of the infrastructure, one issue must be quickly clarified “so as not to shake the overall success of the tournament”: that of alcohol.
It is possible to consume it in some hotel bars and non-Muslim expatriates can buy it in specialized stores.
‘Respect the culture’
There is the possibility, during the World Cup, of authorizing the sale of alcohol in some spaces and in the fan zones, at a reduced price (about 6 euros a beer, instead of 12 in hotels). But it’s not official yet.
What treatment will be given to fans who are drunk, hugging in the streets, or openly homosexual, which is prohibited in normal times, is another of the great unknowns.
This is a concern for many embassies of the teams that will be in the World Cup, unable at the moment to give precise advice to their fans.
Law enforcement officials are prepared to deal with potential problems linked to public drunkenness “in a reasonable and sensitive manner,” promises the organizing committee, which “simply asks fans to respect the country’s conservative culture.”
Regarding the LGBT community, he insists that he takes “seriously” his responsibility to organize a tournament during which “everyone feels safe.” FIFA adds that the personnel, beginning with the security forces, are trained in respect for human rights.
The International Federation also states that it ensures that “symbols of support for LGBTIQ+ causes can be displayed inside and outside the stadiums.”
There remains the question of Qatar’s experience in managing an event of this magnitude: the tens of thousands of people crowded onto the Doha Corniche for a large event organized on Tuesday took the organizers by surprise, causing scenes of disorganization, especially in the entrance to subway stations.
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