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2022 World Cup challenge
World Cup can eradicate misconceptions about Arab world; Qatar likely to make concessions on alcohol consumption; Solar-powered technology to cool stadiums.
December 16, 2010 9:52 by Reuters
The questions began almost as soon as Qatar won the right to host football’s 2022 World Cup. How will a tiny, gas-rich Gulf Arab state cope with an influx of hundreds of thousands of football fans? How will the fans cope with the searing summer heat? What about drinking in a conservative Muslim society?
For most Qataris, the world’s most watched sporting event represents a chance to offer a new image of their homeland and the wider Middle East.
“This is not just for Qatar, but for the whole region,” Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, wife of the country’s ruler, told Reuters in an interview.
“This is an opportunity to eradicate misconceptions, not just about Qatar, but about the wider Islamic and Arab world. We are a very welcoming country, a young nation. And we are not just dreamers, we are achievers.”
ALCOHOL NO ISSUE?
But the questions are likely to continue right up to the World Cup itself. Take alcohol, which many fans see as part of the football experience.
Although not “dry” like neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, alcohol is served only at elite hotels in Qatar, and public drunkenness is prohibited. Will the rules be relaxed in twelve years time? Bid organisers have promised that some concessions will be made.
“The bid committee has done its homework. We recognised that there would have to be some allowances in (alcohol) availability. It’s not especially looking forward to hordes of drunken football fans behaving in an antisocial way, but no country welcomes that,” said Mike Lee, a consultant who advised Qatar on the bid and helped London win the 2012 Olympics and Rio those in 2016.
“Qatar is an environment where Westerners are welcome, and already has a large expat population. Not only is alcohol readily available at hotels, but for the period of the World Cup it would be offered in other areas as well.”
Expats currently comprise about 80 percent of Qatar’s population of 1.7 million. Consumption of alcohol is likely to be largely ignored by the country’s predominantly young population, as it is swept away with the euphoria of hosting the competition, many believe.