Qatar’s 2022 World Cup preparations have been inconvenienced but not delayed by the political and economic boycott by its neighbours, the country’s most senior tournament organiser insisted Sunday.
Hassan Al-Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, said alternative suppliers outside those countries involved in the ongoing dispute have been found for tournament-related construction projects.
“The impact has been minimal,” Thawadi told Doha-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera English in an interview to be aired later on Sunday.
“In terms of stadium progress or stadium construction and infrastructure requirements for the World Cup, progress is being made as well.”
He added that the crisis has “caused an inconvenience”.
Asked outright if projects had been delayed, Thawadi responded: “Projects are on schedule. No delays have occurred.”
Qatar has been isolated since June 5 when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with the World Cup host – accusing it of backing extremism and fostering ties with Iran – triggering the biggest political crisis in the Gulf for several years.
Doha denies the claims.
Qatar initially gave priority to Gulf suppliers for the vast construction projects – the country is spending $500 million a week on World Cup projects – accompanying the controversial tournament.
Since the conflict began, some have questioned whether the gas-rich emirate can subsequently meet deadlines to build or renovate the eight stadiums currently earmarked for 2022.
But Doha has said it swiftly replaced Saudi and UAE companies with Chinese and Malaysian contractors, among others, since June 5.
Since winning the 2022 bid seven years ago, Qatar has been dogged by controversy over allegations of corruption to secure the tournament and the abuse of workers building stadiums, claims which it denies.
Also on Sunday, the Supreme Committee published plans for the design of its sixth tournament stadium, Al-Thumama, and the first to use a Qatari architect, Ibrahim Jaidah.
The 40,000-seater Doha stadium will be based on a traditional gahfiya head-dress worn throughout the region and matches will be played there up to the quarter-final stage in 2022.
“We’ve always been very careful to combine the past with the future in our designs.” said Thawadi.
“The gahfiya is a continuation of that theme.” Construction work will be carried by a Qatari and Turkish company. Turkey is one of Qatar’s strongest allies.
Qatar is preparing eight stadiums for 2022, though this may eventually increase to nine. A final decision is expected by governing body FIFA this year. Originally, up to 12 venues were to be used for the tournament.