(WFI) Qatar 2022’s communications chief confronted the controversies swirling around World Cup preparations in his address at the Soccerex Asian Forum.
Nasser Al Khater, who is also executive director for marketing at Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, replaced the Gulf state’s leading World Cup official, Hassan Al Thawadi, to update delegates at the conference in Jordan.
INSIDER is told Al Thawadi was called to attend a board meeting at the last minute.
Al Khater went on the offensive from the off in his efforts to set the record straight on a number of issues, restating Qatar 2022’s stance on the number of stadia and dismissing reports of workers’ deaths on World Cup projects.
Acknowledging “speculation” that Qatar has decided to slash the number of stadiums from 12 to eight partly due to cost issues, he said: “That’s not true actually. In our bid as FIFA stipulates we proposed a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 18.”
As always, that figure of 18 is reduced by the host country, and Qatar may end up using only the FIFA minimum of eight stadiums. “In 2015, will decide alongside FIFA how many need for the World Cup,” he told delegates.
One stadium is currently under construction – in Al Wakrah. He said construction work on five stadiums would be in different stages by the end of the year.
In the wake of reports about the deaths of hundreds of migrant workers’ on World Cup-related projects, Al Khater was keen to point out, as Qatar 2022 has done in recent months, that construction has not started on World Cup sites.
“Contrary to what international media says, there is no single injury or death on World Cup projects,” he said.
“However, from the very beginning we have taken the issue of workers’ welfare very seriously,” he added, speaking of the Qatar 2022 workers’ charter which is written into World Cup contracts.
As stadium projects launch, developments to improve workers’ welfare are promised later this month by World Cup organisers.
For all the talk of FIFA making a decision to move the World Cup to winter, expected next spring from a global consultation with World Cup stakeholders, Al Khater said Qatar’s investment in making cooling technology for open-air stadiums more environmentally-friendly would continue.
“The World Cup will take place in 2022 [in Qatar],” he responded to a question in Arabic, saying that all discussions with FIFA about planning and operational aspects were based on that.
“We need to make sure we just focus on what make sense to us, that’s delivering our stadiums and the promises,” he added.
With fresh concerns raised about World Cup issues, virtually every week it seems, Al Khater was asked how many questions he gets asked about football. “None” was the answer.
Did he expect to be bombarded with questions about Qatar’s World Cup controversies until the first ball is kicked in 2022?
“Unfortunately yes,” he responded with a big sigh.
INSIDER is a guest of the Asian Football Development Project in Jordan
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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