Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), feels that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will act as a healing touch to the world which has dealt with the Coronavirus pandemic.
SC, the organisation responsible for the delivery of infrastructure for the global showpiece event in 2022, have also been affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. However, Al Thawadi stated that quick and efficient measures taken to limit the spread of the disease has ensured the work on stadiums and other sites for the tournament are very much on track.
"It’s an unprecedented situation and our immediate focus was our workers’ health and safety,” said Al Thawadi during a conversation with James Worrall, Leaders CEO & Founder.
“In coordination with the Ministry of Public Health, we isolated at-risk workers, provided awareness materials and educated people about best practice. We also took other actions, such as disinfecting work sites, to limit the spread as much as possible.”
He re-iterated that though the outbreak has slowed down the work on such sites, completion of the projects will be done on time thanks to fast and efficient work undertaken before the outbreak began.
"We are continuing to work at a much slower pace than normal but we are blessed with already being ahead of the game in terms of infrastructure. We have completed more than 80% of venues – two-and-a-half years before kick-off," he added.
He went on to highlight the importance of the 2022 World Cup in a world which has been ravaged by the Coronavirus. The World Cup in Qatar will bring people together and hopefully help them celebrate the vanquishing of the virus, he felt.
"It may sound idealistic, but Covid-19 has made us realise we are all social creatures. The impact on our mental health, the uncertainty, social distancing, not being able to engage with each other – everyone misses human interaction. I’ve always dreamed big and said this is a World Cup to bring people together – and goodness knows, after Covid, we have to come back together. We need to get over this and celebrate collectively during Qatar 2022."
Al Thawadi did admit that it might take some time before people start travelling across the world freely. But he said Qatar are in discussions with experts and other organisers in similar predicament like Tokyo Olympics organisers in order to plan for various scenarios.
"It’s difficult for anyone to paint a clear picture of a post-Covid world. This is the first time in the modern world where all economic activity has come to a standstill and there are big implications on business, employment and livelihoods.
"We need to consider the ability of fans to afford to visit and participate in the World Cup. We’re in discussions with experts and also other tournament holders, such as Tokyo 2020, to plan and put scenarios together. We need to host an event which is affordable for fans and functionable for industries and supply chains.”
He went on to project an optimistic view for the end of the Coronavirus crisis. He also hoped that the economic blockade imposed on Qatar by several neighbouring countries would be removed by the time the World Cup rolls along so that the entire region can celebrate a great tournament.
"In many ways, the blockade has been a blessing in disguise for Qatar. It has forced us to be self-reliant and look inwards. It’s actually helped us become better prepared to deal with Covid-19.
"Support from the people of the region – notably blockading countries – is there. People are very excited about the tournament. I hope the blockading countries remove the travel restrictions. There are no restrictions from Qatar. I hope they remove them for what is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the people of our region.
"By 2022, I’m optimistic we will have overcome this pandemic. I’m optimistic we will have become more resilient as a human race. It’s a chance for us all to celebrate together.”