300 billion euro note possible for Qatar before the World Cup

300 billion euro note possible for Qatar before the World Cup

The bill Qatar pays for the most expensive World Cup ever will rise to fantasy levels in the one month left until kick-off on November 20.

Gleaming new stadiums costing more than €6.5 billion are ready, while a €36 billion driverless subway system serves five of the eight venues.

The palm-style streetlights and neon-hued office buildings that line the highway from the expanded international airport to central Doha will be an instant signal to the millions of arriving fans that the first World Cup to be held in an Arab country is going to be a glittering affair.

But as Qatar’s organizers are desperate to convince the world of the event’s enduring legacy – marred by a corruption probe and criticism of Qatar’s rights record and even its use of stadium air conditioning – further costs are likely to come.

Thousands of workers work through the night to complete some hotels, apartment blocks and roads.

Qatar’s natural gas wealth has left the emirate with seemingly endless pockets to pay for the football extravaganza.

But astonishing estimates have been made of up to €300 billion for total infrastructure spending over the past decade.

In contrast, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil cost an estimated 11.5 billion euros and Russia 2018 around 14 billion euros.

The countdown timer for the 2022 World Cup in Doha

With a population of just 2.8 million, Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world. And comparisons are unfair, says Danyel Reiche, an associate visiting professor at Georgetown University Qatar who is leading a research project on the World Cup.

“Much of the infrastructure spending was already part of Qatar’s 2030 development plan and has just been brought forward for the World Cup,” he said.

FIFA has praised Qatar’s preparations and the eight stadiums designed to highlight Arab tradition and culture.

“Together we will deliver the best World Cup ever, on and off the pitch,” affirmed its President Gianni Infantino this week.

But rights groups are still urging FIFA and Qatar to reach into their pockets to compensate South Asian workers who died or were injured during the construction frenzy since the tournament was awarded in 2010.

“There are families who have gone into debt because of the workers who moved to Qatar to build this infrastructure and died. We can at least fix it before the World Cup starts,” said Rothna Begum of the Human Rights Watch campaign group.

“The spotlight will be lost after the World Cup. It’s hard to celebrate these games when you know these families have nothing.”

Qatar has said much of the criticism of its record is unfair, pointing to sweeping reforms over the past five years that have helped hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in the state.

Qatari newspapers have blamed a European media “conspiracy” for criticism of labor and LGBTQ rights.

Qatar is one of about 70 countries that criminalizes homosexuality, but has insisted all are “welcome”.

Reiche said “it’s a rarity among (the 70) where it’s not prosecuted,” adding “it remains to be seen whether Qatar will follow Singapore’s lead in decriminalizing same-sex relationships.”

Away from politics, the expectations of the population of Doha are growing.

Yasmian Ghanem, a member of the Qatar golf team, sat at a cafe in the tourist district of Souq Waqif and said “the fans will have a great time” in the state.

Former France internationals Blaise Matuidi (L) and Marcel Desailly (R) pose next to the FIFA World Cup trophy during a tour in Qatar

Qatar’s football fans, meanwhile, are keeping an eye on the national team’s form.

After so much money, many are dying to see the host country at least make it through the group stage.

But the Asian champions are the lowest-ranked side in their group – 50th in the world – against the Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador.

The Republic of Ireland beat Qatar 4-0 in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium a year ago.

The gala opener against Ecuador (44th) is considered an early competitive game as the Qataris dream of repeating South Korea’s feat of reaching the semi-finals when they helped host the 2002 tournament.

Former Qatar coach Philippe Troussier said the team only had a “50-50” chance.

“It’s going to be tough.” Christian Gourcuff, a former manager at Al Gharafa club, said Qatar had put “phenomenal” resources into national team preparation.

But he believes that, apart from attacker Akram Afif, they lack the “international dimension” which could cost Qatar their World Cup ambitions.

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