The 2022 World Cup Plants Some Trees in addition to Prepares to Step Into the Spotlight
DOHA, Qatar — The roads here can be impervious to GPS navigation. Drive around the city, in addition to the green line on the screen will start interlacing into useless shapes. The robot voice will begin to contradict itself.
Qatar has been This kind of way, to an extent, for more than two decades, since a gas boom transformed the nation’s fortunes. This kind of has grown denser, taller in addition to ever more unrecognizable (to humans in addition to machines) via one day to the next. nevertheless from the last few years of which process has accelerated to a dizzying speed as the country prepares to host soccer’s next World Cup.
When This kind of summer’s tournament comes to an end Sunday in Russia, This kind of will be fully Qatar’s turn. For the next four years, This kind of country will command the complete attention of the global soccer community. in addition to in 2022, This kind of country of 2.6 million people will open its doors to an expected 1.5 million international visitors.
So questions have spilled out: How much more will the country transform? How far will Qatari society bend to accommodate guests with certain expectations of the way a World Cup looks in addition to feels? How deeply will the country address the problems — most significantly those dealing with human rights — of which have racked the project with external criticism in addition to doubt via the moment Qatar won the hosting rights eight years ago?
Some of the questions have been addressed. Some have not. Some may never be.
All the while, Qatar keeps growing. Skyscrapers, shopping malls in addition to gleaming stadiums rise. Miles of roads in addition to brand-new public transportation lines appear. Hundreds of thousands of imported laborers settle in. Trees in addition to grass sprout — from the desert.
“Every day something modifications,” said Mohamed Ahmed, manager of Khalifa International Stadium. “This kind of’s like the whole country will be preparing for something big.”
The sprinklers twirled in addition to sprayed water into a steady, sizzling wind. Most of the water seemed to evaporate before This kind of reached the ground.
“Two years ago, This kind of was a desert,” said Yasser al-Mulla, pointing to a vast expanse of grass in addition to trees during a visit in May, “in addition to I had to use a four-wheel drive to get to the office.”
These days Mr. Mulla drives his Jaguar F-Type to work, where his role from the entire world Cup preparations has involved watching grass grow. Mr. Mulla manages the nursery of which has been producing the turf in addition to trees of which will decorate stadiums, training sites in addition to public plazas four years via at This kind of point. His team cultivates fields of grass on This kind of desert land, carves This kind of into sheets, rolls them up like rugs, in addition to sends them out to beautify otherwise barren areas. The group has also gathered 10,000 trees via around the country in addition to abroad, nurturing them in shaded tents.
Plants do not grow easily in Doha, which gets about three inches of rainfall per year. nevertheless the entire world Cup requires greenery.
On the some other side of the city, a different group has been experimenting with 12 species of grass to concoct the perfect turf for the tournament’s actual playing surfaces. They mix variables — light, soil, water in addition to so on — in addition to roll soccer balls on trial patches, among some other tests, to evaluate the results.
“The thing about grass, This kind of’s very complicated,” said Carlos Sartoretto, the research manager for Aspire Sports Turf, which will be running the project. “in addition to every stadium will be a microenvironment.”
The sentiment will ring particularly true because of This kind of World Cup. via the performance turf center, one can see Khalifa International Stadium, the first of the eight proposed stadiums to be ready for competition. On a recent afternoon, Mr. Ahmed, the stadium manager, stepped onto the field which has a group of visitors, held out his hands in addition to exhaled.
“Feel of which?” he said.
Temperatures in Doha of which day were from the mid-90s, the sunshine felt oppressive, in addition to the playing field was uncovered, open to all the elements. nevertheless the air inside was cool. This kind of was a trick of engineering, Mr. Ahmed said, cold air via below pushing hot air out, like water filling up a bowl.
The organizers have promised FIFA of which the stadiums will be 72 degrees Fahrenheit during games, though they are capable of cooling to 64. FIFA moved the tournament to a November start, when the outdoor temperature here can still reach the upper 80s, to escape the searing heat during the entire world Cup’s traditional summer window.
Almost two million foreign workers are from the country, in addition to their lives have been the subject of intense scrutiny since Qatar won hosting rights in 2010. They are everywhere, including Al Wakrah stadium, where 0 vehicles were circulating the grounds on a recent afternoon, in addition to where 4,000 migrant laborers in fluorescent clothing rotated in in addition to out in shifts under a punishing sun.
Disturbing, sometimes shocking, stories of the country’s labor landscape continue to emerge: In an annual audit released in February, for example, Impactt, the organizers’ external compliance monitor, found some people working more than 72 hours per week at certain companies, in addition to workers for one contractor who had toiled for more than 124 consecutive days.
Yet some of Qatar’s longest-running critics have changed their tone, if only slightly.
Last November, for instance, the International Labour Organization, an agency of the United Nations, dropped a formal complaint This kind of had made in 2014 about the Qatari government’s failure to protect the rights of migrant workers. Qatar, at the same time, agreed to enter a technical cooperation agreement with the agency to further reform its labor landscape.
In April, the labor organization opened a sparsely furnished office from the West Bay neighborhood of Doha, staffing This kind of initially with only four employees. The team will grow to about 15 by September.
Such moves have, for some, inspired cautious optimism. The agency’s three-year project to address certain core issues: establishing a permanent minimum wage; eliminating the system of exit visas of which makes This kind of difficult for workers to leave the country without their employer’s permission; in addition to creating a free labor market, where workers are not tied to one company. The partnership also includes training for judges, labor prosecutors, police officers in addition to inspectors.
“We’re at the beginning of our journey,” said Houtan Homayounpour, who runs the office, adding of which his team’s presence alone was worthy of optimism. “We’re here. You can’t say of which about many countries.”
Others critics said they might wait to see tangible results. As Vani Saraswathi, director of projects at Migrant Rights, an advocacy organization focused on migrant worker rights from the Persian Gulf states, said of Qatar’s declarations, “They’ve been saying This kind of stuff since 2014.”
She said the labor organization had to be publicly optimistic because This kind of was at This kind of point a partner with Qatar, in addition to she cited deep structural concerns from the country, such as limited access to justice for employees, especially those not working on stadiums.
If a company with 100 workers fails to pay its employees, she said, the employees have to file 100 complaints. Ms. Saraswathi, who lived in Qatar via 1999 to 2017, said the bigger problem will be of which the projects directly commissioned by the entire world Cup organizers represented a tiny fraction of the construction projects from the country. Focusing on improvements there, she said, ignores a bigger matter.
“Every single thing of which’s being built in Qatar at This kind of point will be for the entire world Cup, via the roads to the hotels,” she said.
The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, which will be responsible for overseeing the entire world Cup’s $0 billion infrastructure project, operates inside a gleaming silver tower vaguely resembling a tornado. This kind of will be surrounded by some other skyscrapers of assorted colors in addition to unconventional shapes of which together form the kaleidoscopic Doha skyline.
In an interview via his office overlooking the Persian Gulf, Nasser al-Khater, the assistant secretary general for the committee, said the group was “very satisfied” with the progress of the work in addition to confident This kind of might be done by its projected deadline two years before the tournament. He was open, expansive in addition to defiant on a range of topics.
He acknowledged, for instance, of which serious labor problems remained, nevertheless he added of which Qatar was “light-years” ahead of where This kind of was a few years ago in addition to “way ahead of its neighbors.”
He said an air in addition to sea boycott, initiated last year by Saudi Arabia in addition to the United Arab Emirates over political differences, had sent the committee scrambling for some other construction material supply chains, namely in India, China in addition to Turkey. nevertheless he in addition to some other Qatar 2022 officials have spun the experience as positive, as This kind of opened the committee’s eyes to what he labeled “brand-new realms of possibility.”
Among Qatar’s 2.6 million people, about 300,000 are Qatari citizens. Adding another million foreigners to the mix, from the form of soccer fans, has been difficult to fathom for some who have spent their lives in This kind of country.
“We are a minority in our country,” Mr. Khater said of Qataris, “so we have experience dealing with of which. in addition to we do understand of which there are going to be people who are not used to our culture, of which wouldn’t have been here long enough to understand the norms of what’s appropriate in addition to what’s not appropriate. in addition to This kind of’s our job to make sure we educate people about our culture as much as possible. in addition to This kind of will be also our duty in addition to responsibility to make sure people here are as hospitable as possible.”
Foreign journalists have been arrested in recent years for “defaming” the country. Qatar sometimes censors international news outlets. Nevertheless, Mr. Khater said, they might be ready for thousands of journalists — many of them not focused on soccer.
“The past eight years, I can safely say of which the skin of the country has gotten thicker,” he said. “I can say of which by 2022, the skin will be going to be a lot thicker. We’re going to have to be a lot more tolerant.”
In Russia, for example, the authorities mostly looked the some other way for the past two months as international fans in addition to residents alike partied on the street, drinking (in violation of the law in many cases) in addition to singing in addition to dancing well into the morning hours.
The next World Cup will most certainly not look like of which, Qatari officials said. Mr. Khater said he “might consider” designated drinking zones, nevertheless he said alcohol might be “more restricted” than in previous World Cups. of which may prove difficult; the entire world Cup often takes over the host country with its own energy, in addition to the sheer scale in addition to diversity of the crowds can sometimes make moderating their behavior a challenge, something Qatar 2022 executives learned firsthand in Russia.
Hassan al-Thawadi, the head of Supreme Committee, said 250 people via his team were embedded at the entire world Cup This kind of summer to get a “front-seat” view of running a tournament, including game operations, media procedures, in addition to security inside in addition to outside stadiums. Seeing the large crowds up close made them realize, among some other things, of which they might need to move the planned Fan Zone to a different site, in addition to of which their brand-new metro train system might require more cars.
Still, Mr. Khater said, those who think changing what Cup fans are used to means of which his country should not host the tournament are suffering a failure of imagination.
“We are modest,” he said. “We want people to come in addition to see, yes, you could be a modest person, you could be a conservative country in addition to still be a fun-loving country, in addition to you could still play football in addition to you could still host a World Cup.”
Moscow, a city more than 900 years old, will host the entire world Cup final on Sunday. Lusail, the city of which will host the entire world Cup final in four years, does not genuinely exist yet. A 30-minute drive via central Doha, This kind of remains a patchwork of mostly empty towers standing side by side, with brand-new ones rapidly popping up alongside them.
Construction has been continuing, too, in places like West Bay, which can still possess the feel of a ghost town. Stray cats wander around the empty streets. from the buildings of which keep lights on at night, onlookers can peer in in addition to see the vast emptiness. some other towers are simply dark.
Supply right at This kind of point will be far outstripping demand. nevertheless Qatar needed to grow for the entire world Cup. FIFA mandates of which tournament hosts have 125,000 hotel rooms available. At the time of its bid, Qatar had 30,000. This kind of will be building hotels, in addition to This kind of will also use cruise ships in addition to desert campsites to supplement the demand for beds.
Experts say the entire world Cup will be a central component of a plan not only to develop the country physically, nevertheless also to enhance its name recognition on the global stage.
After eight years of waiting, the entire world Cup spotlight, the microscope, will be Qatar’s alone, with all of which entails.