Secretary General: Hosting Qatar 2022 is a transformational opportunity
The Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) described Qatar's hosting of the FIFA World Cup™ as a 'transformational opportunity' at Doha Forum.
During an interview with CNN's Becky Anderson, H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi said hosting international football's biggest tournament had the power to change perceptions and break down stereotypes of Qatar, the Middle East and Arab world.
"It's a transformational opportunity for the region to benefit from this great event," said Al Thawadi. "You have this powerful tool that can break down opinions – not simply from an ideological point of view, but for the average fan.
"People and fans can build relationships. They will support their teams but they can also create a bond through their shared love of football."
Al Thawadi continued: "The World Cup was always an opportunity for positive change. All we can do [as a country] is strive to continuously improve. We've evolved over the last ten years and we're developing every day. We're implementing change and we're improving people's lives."
Al Thawadi said preparations for the tournament were on-track and will include the unveiling of three more stadiums in 2020. He also touched on the Arabian Gulf Cup and ongoing FIFA Club World Cup™ as ideal opportunities to test readiness while giving fans a taste of what to expect in 2022.
"Everything is coming together according to plan. Next year, three stadiums will come into the pipeline.
"The Club World Cup and Gulf Cup are a chance to listen to the fans. We want to ensure our plans meet their expectations for 2022."
Al Thawadi also touched on football's power to unite when he was asked about the participation of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup, which recently took place in Qatar.
"I think the tournament itself holds a special place in our hearts. It showcases the commitment of Qatar to separating sport and politics – and the concept of building platforms that, despite differences, bring people together."
On workers' welfare, Al Thawadi was questioned on the SC's engagement with Liverpool FC supporters' group Spirit of Shankly, which raised questions about the treatment of workers in Qatar.
Al Thawadi said: "We engaged with Liverpool and Spirit of Shankly, and opened ourselves up to questioning in order to dispel any misconceptions and answer their questions. We've been open and transparent on the genuine progress that has been made and that reflects our values as a nation.
"I think both the club and supporters' associations recognised we are genuine. We look forward to hosting them in Qatar – when Liverpool fans arrive they will find a celebration of multiculturalism."
On Saturday, Al Thawadi discussed a range of subjects related to Qatar 2022 during a number of meetings held on the sidelines of Doha Forum.
Al Thawadi met Rwandan President, H.E. Paul Kagame, to discuss potential links between Qatar and Rwanda during the lead-up to 2022. They also discussed the SC's Generation Amazing legacy programme, which has collaborated with Rwanda's Ministry of Sport to launch a pilot project focused on youth in Kigali. Generation Amazing will work with different partners in Rwanda to refurbish facilities, train local coaches and deliver football for development programmes.
Al Thawadi also met H.E. Otto Sonnenholzner, the Vice President of Ecuador, to discuss links between Qatar and Ecuador, and the potential for enhanced ties around the time of next summer's Copa America. Qatar and Ecuador have been drawn in the same group for the tournament, which will take place in Argentina and Colombia.
With Miguel Angel Moratinos, the United Nations High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Al Thawadi discussed potential partnerships between the UN and SC, plus the power of Qatar 2022 to unite people across the world.
During a meeting with Vladimir Voronkov, the United Nations Under-Secretary for Counter-Terrorism, Al Thawadi discussed initiatives aimed at preventing extremism.
Al Thawadi also met Lord Peter Mandelson, who formerly held a number of Cabinet positions in the UK government before becoming President of Policy Network.
Established in 2000, Doha Forum is a platform for global dialogue on critical challenges facing the world. It promotes the interchange of ideas, discourse, policy making and action-oriented recommendations.