The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will build on the success of the current edition in Russia and will change people’s perceptions of the Middle Eastern nation, according to organizing official Hassan Al Thawadi.
Al Thawadi, secretary general of the Qatar 2022 supreme committee, was speaking to RT as the 2018 World Cup in Russia reaches its conclusion this weekend.
He was full of praise for Russia as hosts, and says that Qatar will have “big boots to fill” as the next destination for the tournament, but that they would use the success of 2018 as a boost.
“We’re embracing the pressure. There’s no platform like the World Cup to break down stereotypes,” Al Thawadi told RT hosts Neil Harvey and Danish goalkeeping great Peter Schmeichel in Moscow.
“Russia has hosted a fantastic tournament. If ever there was a tournament that has quintessentially transformed people’s minds, from human interaction, Russia did it.
“We believe in the transformational power that Russia has succeeded in doing… It’s big boots to fill, but we’re confident we can do it.
“It will be a more successful tournament [in Qatar] because we’ll be building it on the back of this success [in Russia],” he said.
Al Thawadi also addressed apparent concerns over cultural differences that would meet World Cup fans in Qatar – in particular over the issue of alcohol, whose sale and consumption is restricted in the Middle Eastern nation.
“Let’s address the elephant in the room – alcohol. Alcohol will be served, it just won’t be served in public places, in the streets and so on, but there will be designated areas, open areas where people will be able to have alcohol.
“It’s a different culture, it’s not a restrictive culture as people think it might be,” Al Thawadi said.
He added that the nation would welcome fans with open arms.
“We’re used to hosting major events, we’re used to welcoming people from different walks of life and different parts of the world into our country,” Al Thawadi said.
“Simply put, everybody’s welcome, everybody will be having a good time.”
Russia President Vladimir Putin will meet Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on Sunday in a ceremony to mark the handing over of the mantle as World Cup hosts.