DOHA: Qatar has faced a lot of unfair criticism over its hosting of football’s World Cup that was not based on facts but it has responded to any fair criticism, the Qatar 2022 Chief Executive Nasser Al Khater said on Thursday.

He told a news conference, the first held by organisers in months, that 70 days prior to the tournament’s kick-off, sports and transport infrastructure in the tiny desert country were complete and remaining work was “aesthetic”.

The decision to have the World Cup in Qatar, the first Middle East country to host the event, has drawn criticism from human rights gro­ups over the Gulf state’s trea­t­me­nt of foreign migrant wor­kers and restrictive social laws.

“We think that a lot of the criticism has been unfair, not based on factual reality. Whatever we felt was fair criticism we have taken on board,” Khater said.

He spoke at Lusail Stadium, which will host the World Cup final. The 80,000 capacity arena will handle a capacity crowd on Friday for the first time for the Lusail Super Cup, the last major test event for World Cup preparedness.

World Cup organisers ignored questions about how Qatar’s security authorities would deal with fans who broke laws such as smuggling alcohol into stadiums or being violent.

They also did not provide details about which countries would send police officers or soldiers to Qatar to help secure the tournament that starts on Nov 20.

Over a million fans are expected to attend the event, with many flying or driving in from neighbouring Gulf states.

Doha spent years enhancing its infrastructure in the lead-up to the World Cup, including building seven new stadiums, a metro system and new expressways. Khater said the cost of Qatar’s World Cup was “in line with or less” than the last three.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2022

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