(WFI) A senior Qatar World Cup official says the Gulf nation is not concerned with the Swiss investigation into FIFA corruption and the 2022 bidding process.

Nasser al Khater, assistant secretary general for Qatar World Cup organisers, told reporters Wednesday that Swiss authorities probing a series of corruption allegations linked to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups had not been in touch with Qatar World Cup chiefs.

When asked about the investigation, Khater insisted there had been no contact at all from Swiss investigators but Qatar 2022 would fully cooperate with the bidding probe.

As for the corruption scandal that has brought FIFA’s leadership to its knees, Khater said Qatar 2022 wanted a more transparent organization.

“What we would like to see is a strong transparent football governing body going forward, whoever it may be,” he said of upcoming reforms and the search for a successor to Sepp Blatter, who has been suspended over corruption claims.

Nasser al Khater (WFI)

 
Khater said the FIFA scandal was not impacting Qatar 2022 preparations.

“We focus on progress, communicating progress and making sure we engage with the local community for them to understand the benefits of the World Cup,” he said.

With seven years remaining until the World Cup heads to Qatar, Khater says organisers are on track with the venue and infrastructure construction necessary to host the FIFA showpiece.

“Our progress is very, very good. I think we are happy with where we are now, and I believe we are on schedule to have all of our stadiums completed by the year 2020. Seven years out from the tournament, I’m very comfortable to say we are in a very, very good place,” said Khater.

Khalifa International Stadium rendering (SC)

Qatar has already begun work on six of the proposed venues, five of which have received approval from FIFA. Khater says he expects Khalifa International Stadium to finish construction first, with a completion date set for the beginning of 2017.

Khater said the venue plan is set to be the most compact in the history of the World Cup, a feat possible due to the size of the oil-rich country.

“Qatar is a small country so we promote the compact nature of this World Cup. For the players, they won’t have to travel after they finish a game. That relieves a lot of pressure and gives more time to focus on training and the game. It’s conducive to fans being congregated in smaller areas. It will be nothing more than one hour from one venue to the other.”

The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee operates out of and monitors venue progress from Al Bidda Tower. (WFI)

In order to travel from one venue to the next, Doha is also well underway constructing a metro line, with reports suggesting work on the project is nearly 50 percent completed. World Cup organisers expect the rail system to be operational by 2019.

To ensure these massive projects are on track, Qatar 2022 can remotely monitor each of these construction sites via a live camera feed capable of zooming in with great detail to all parts of the site. The feed is available in the SC control room located in Al Bidda Tower, or via a smartphone app.

The Supreme Committee for Development and Legacy, which is overseeing 2022 World Cu construction projects, also uses this technology to monitor the health and safety of those working on these projects.

“We make sure these live cams that capture and store everything are at a fingertips away from us to be able to make sure that if there is an incident we can go back and see what the incident was and how it happened so we can rectify it and have an accurate understanding of what happened,” said Khater.

Human rights groups have raised major concerns about the working and living conditions of migrant workers in Qatar.

Cranes stretch out across the Doha skyline (WFI)

However, the Qatari government vehemently denies claims and organisers emphasise that they have been no deaths involving construction on World Cup projects.

“We’ve been working relentlessly on making sure our projects are adhering to international standards and in most cases I think the standards are even higher than what is considered the international standard. We have had zero major incidents. We’ve had zero fatalities in any of our projects,” says Khater.

Qatar 2022 created a Workers’ Welfare charter in 2014 to ensure the human rights and safety of workers are protected and they receive reasonable training, wages, work hours and accommodations. They have also renovated the workers’ accommodations sites to meet higher standards.

But the controversial Kafala system of tied employment has still not been implemented as promised by the government.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle in terms of improving the public opinion of the World Cup in Qatar, but I think that we are getting there. It’s the biggest challenge for this tournament,” said Khater.

“We find that a lot of public perception is formed by individuals and organizations that haven’t been to Qatar. If you come here, you will be able to make an informed opinion instead of relying on what you hear and see in the media,” he continued.

Reported in Doha by INSIDER’s Kevin Nutley

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