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What Qatar plans for the world in 2022

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…And a Nigerian’s role in it

By Onochie Anibeze, just back from Doha

When Qatar felt that they had everything to engage the world, promote social development, unity, culture and tourism they started dreaming of achieving that through sports.

Hassan Al Thawadi

Arguably, in sports, football offers the most glamorous spectacle. Yes, hosting the World Cup became a dream. With it, they could engage the world amazingly. They settled for it. Let’s bid to host the World Cup, they concluded.

The message Qatari people started passing round was DREAM AMAZING. They wanted all to dream about amazing things that could happen not only to their people but also the global football family if the World Cup tournament came to Qatar. And the message caught up. It was everywhere. The dream was on. Imagination featured in minds.

The slogan was to change when they filed their bid to host the World Cup. The message became EXPECT AMAZING. Qatar went into business, prepared their bid and told the world to expect amazing things if given the right to host the 2022 World Cup. That was a huge ambition for a country with a population of just over two million people in an area covering 11,571 kilometres.

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But they were determined to prove that ambition matters and not size or population. They prepared their bid and made their presentations in a manner that was irresistible. The only way to stop Qatar was not to listen to them – don’t look at the contents in their bid or allow them make presentation. If you did, you would be wowed into their amazing dream and expectation.

No man of goodwill would watch their presentation and not be dazzled. They were absolutely tremendous.

With weather conditions in Qatar approaching 40 degrees at summertime when the tournament holds, the country promised to produce a technology that would cool the atmosphere in the stadiums and their environs. They took FIFA officials to Khalifa Stadium where they have such technology and “wonders shall never end” was on the lips of the visitors.

They presented the designs of stadiums that they would build, the hospitality that they would offer, the cultural displays and the carnival they would make of the World Cup and the dreams, the imaginations were expanding.

Eugene Okosun, Health And Safety Manager at Lusail Stadium explaining a point to Onochie Anibeze and Foussena Djagba at the site of Lusail stadium.

The aesthetics of their planned stadia and existing ones were magnificent pieces of art. They spoke of hosting such a unique and compact World Cup that fans could watch two matches in a day.

From one venue to another could be less than two hours on a fast train. Their bid accommodated the fast trains and rail lines linking the World Cup venues. They got everybody nodding. And when they added that some facilities including some stadia or part of them would be collapsed after the World Cup and given out as sports aids to some developing countries it translated to more votes from Africa and other developing countries.

The gesture was largely informed by their population and respect for proficiency in managing facilities. Facilities must not waste after 2022.

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Qatar sang their songs well and FIFA danced to their melody. Having won the right to host they started work. They started constructing the rail lines, building the stadia and other facilities they hope would dazzle the world in 2022.

Change, they say, is the only permanent thing. Their slogan had to change again. It’s now DELIVER AMAZING. They are constructing and delivering amazing facilities. Qatar must be different from other World Cups. Qatar must be unique.

It’s their choice to deliver to the world an amazing World Cup. Countries hosting international championships like the World Cup, Olympic Games, World Championships, Commonwealth Games all constitute Local Organising Committee, LOC. Qatar is different. Their 2022 World Cup local organising committee is named Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy. They are out to deliver an amazing World Cup and legacies for future generations. And that’s partly why it doesn’t go by the usual name of LOCAL ORGANISING COMMITTEE.

The target is to transform the already beautiful country with first class facilities and structures into another dream world. It’s about legacy and the 2022 World Cup is just a catalyst, one of the tools to achieve the wonderland. Plan is seriously on to make 2022 World Cup an evergreen memory for the football world.

When I met Hassan al Thawadi, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy last weekend in Doha I asked him: “From Dream Amazing to Expect Amazing and now Deliver Amazing, would the slogan change to Experience Amazing during the World Cup in 2022? Hassan was all smiles and said, “that’s right. You have the copyright to say so and so shall it be.”

Al Thawadi is a reporter’s dream. Very eloquent, humorous, warm and friendly. His humility just like that of his deputy Al Nakthar disarms a hostile mind. He is always talking of a spectacular World Cup in 2022. And they follow up with actions.

“That’s what we owe the world and our country,” he said. “We are determined and focused to deliver an amazing World Cup in 2022. The experience will be amazing to everyone. You said it right, that’s what it will be – EXPERIENCE AMAZING.”

That’s how open they are to ideas or suggestions. And that’s largely why they may truly host the best World Cup in terms of organization and hospitality. Experts are already saying that Qatar 2022 could be the most viewed on television. “Yes, it’s likely to be and perhaps the most successful,” Hassan al Thawadi said.

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Doha had been busy during the week. Officials attending the FIFA Executive Summit were winding up when Doha Forum for Global Dialogue commenced. About 50 sports journalists from different countries were in town for the unveiling of the design of Lusail Stadium while more than 200 journalists from all over the world attended the Doha Forum. Activities marking the National Day of Qatar were on and Lusail City was a sight to behold.

Lusail will host the 2022 World Cup opening match and the final; aside hosting some group matches. It is the biggest stadium facility that Qatar will deliver to the world. We went to the site to see progress of work. The dinner where the stadium design was unveiled also marked the four year countdown to the fiesta. The Amir, HH Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad al Thani graced the occasion. President of Ecuador Lenin Moreno was there. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, President of UN General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces and Prime Minister of Somalia Ali Khairi were all there. It was a colourful event.

Eugene Okosun, Health And Safety Manager at Lusail Stadium

Qatar appears on the march to become a great tourist destination. They have the potential to outdo Dubai in the years to come. The World Cup, to them is not only about football. It’s a catalyst to development and all the factors that could make them a dreamland. Constructions have increased tremendously since they won the 2022 World Cup hosting rights.

Hassan al Thawadi said at the Four Years To Go Gala Night that their achievements prove that the ambitions of countries, their determination to achieve more and their general productivity matter and not necessarily their geographical size.

“The ambitious vision of leadership embodied in Qatar National Vision 2030 will steer the country to new horizons of success in terms of sustainable growth and prosperity,” he said

Expatriate workers are everywhere in Qatar working. Some of the greatest football names of the world are their ambassadors. Ruud Gullit, Snider, Bora Millutinovic etc are ambassadors of Qatar 2022. They are part of the team telling the world to come and Qatar wonder in 2022.

Nigerian hand in Lusail

At the end of our tour of the construction site at the Lusail Stadium, the project manager, Tamin El Abed announced that there was one more thing we needed to appreciate. We turned to him, very attentive.

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He had been talking and explaining the concept of the design of a stadium already looking magnificent as construction was still going on and work just about 30 percent completed. The West End of the stadium, will as usual, accommodate the VIP with bullet proof. The hospitality suites will be there. Dressing rooms and media zone will all be at this end.

The East end takes same shape as the West end. In the stadium building will also be a beautiful hotel. The cooling effect will ensure that the temperature does not exceed 26 degrees no matter the harshness of the sun.

The design is so unique Qatar says there will be nothing like it in the world, at least at the moment. The part made of concrete could remain and the upper layers made mostly with steel could be removed after the World Cup and donated to a developing country. Will Nigeria be one? I hope so.

Lusail is being made special and it will be ready two years before kick-off. El Abed now announces what he said we should appreciate:

“We are all grateful to Eugene (pointing at the man). He put all this together and made this possible. We thank him immensely.”

And who is Eugene? His full name is Eugene Okosun, a Nigerian. I was proud a Nigerian was enjoying accolades in Qatar for proficiency in his area.

Okosun is the Project Health and Safety Manager at the Lusail Stadium. No project in this stadium goes on without his approval or some certification. The young man has worked in London Metro and other projects and he brought his experience to bear in Qatar.

“The Qatar people are committed to hosting a successful World Cup and making their place one of the best in the world. They are getting there. They are very happy with me. Because of my performance here, they have allowed me to engage more Africans. We have not had any serious case of accident in the construction of this huge facility. It’s rare but that’s what it is here,” Eugene said with so much confidence and satisfaction.

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“Our country should emulate these people. They are patriotic and committed to building a first class nation. They have become a reference country of repute.”

Watch out for more stories on Lusail Stadium visit and interview with Hasan Al Thawadi


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