Gorolive.com – World Cup Videos & Highlights
There will be a different make-up to the crowds in Qatar. European fans are not travelling in great numbers. Denmark, Switzerland and Spain are among those not sending an official supporters’ block, and demand for England’s matches is under par. For those that go, there will be a greater reliance than usual on official World Cup facilities, transportation and rules. Fans had to purchase not only tickets but accommodation from official channels, will travel to matches via official routes and are being encouraged to socialise in official venues. How it will all work remains a matter of some uncertainty.
Where will people stay?
The first World Cup to have enticed fans to sleep in cruise ship cabins, Qatar claims to have made 2.3m room nights available to visitors. Some of these have already come in for viral ridicule, with a video of the wind whipping through a tented fan village this week revealing a set-up of basic amenities. Comments compared the footage to Fyre Festival, the contemporary byword for a money-sucking disaster.
Whoever stays in the tents at Qetaifan Island Fan Camp, which contain two single beds and a nightstand and offer “complimentary access to the adjacent Qetai-Fan Beach Festival”, will be paying $200 (£170) per night, per person. This was the cheapest option for fans booking this summer, when hotel rooms remained unavailable as Fifa decided how to allocate its share to guests. Since November hotels have been available through an online portal and can be booked for $100 a night, but availability is patchy.
The portal has plenty of options for those travelling in luxury. There are a plethora of five-star hotels and the Fan Village Heenat Salma, “a farm, an education centre, and a rural escape”, which lays on “craftsmanship” classes and offers a “wellness treatment session”. Heenat Salma is available for $1,000 per night, per person.
Cruise ships fall somewhere in between the tent and the farm and also priced at mid-range are a substantial inventory of apartments. There is capacity but a lot of it is new and relatively untested.
What will they do there?
Well, there’s football to watch. With four games a day for most of the opening fortnight, and staggered kick-offs, there will pretty much always be a game on. The only visitors allowed into the country are those with match tickets, so some of their time will definitely be spent in a stadium.
For the rest of what will count as entertainment at the World Cup, Qatari authorities were still building much of it last week. The 40,000-capacity Al-Bidda fan park will be the main hub, part of a Fifa plan to “reimagine” the “fan destination”. With a big screen the size of Torquay and various fun-park-style games to play, Al-Bidda will also hold a music festival, with Fifa announcing that Diplo and Calvin Harris had recently joined the bill. Bar prices have caught the eye – beer will be about £12 a pint – and shade seems to be at a premium; an early tour of Al-Bidda suggested the only people who got any were VIPs in their own grandstand.
Further attractions are limited, mainly in terms of the scale they can offer. You can go buggy racing in sand dunes or visit the oasis of the inner sea, but it’s not something you can do in a crowd. Same goes for the throwback charms of souk waqif and its spice market or the contemporary art spaces that have sprung up around town. Only the central bay of the Corniche offers the opportunity to truly spread out, which is probably good news for sunbathers.
Questions of scale could also apply to getting food. There will be official stands for Fifa-sanctioned products but how many and where remains to be seen. Those in self-catering can access local supermarkets, but much of the dining in Qatar is done in hotels and malls, another option that comes with a price tag and a limit on numbers.
What about alcohol?
It is a criminal offence to drink alcohol or be drunk in public. There are exceptions, of which the World Cup is one, but reports of sponsor Budweiser having its beer concessions moved to less prominent places around stadiums show how contentious the issue of drinking remains among Qatari authorities.
Anyone keen will have to try pretty hard to get drunk. You can’t buy alcohol in a supermarket and there aren’t any off licences. You also aren’t allowed to bring booze into the country. Intriguingly there are a small number of government liquor dispensaries where residents can pick up their own bottles, but only with a permit. This leaves the places where you can get a drink as stadiums and fan parks, where it will be twice as expensive as in London (London!), or in a hotel where – this should hardly need spelling out – it won’t come cheap. Even stadiums may be blocked at the last minute from selling alcohol.
Who needs booze anyway? There are lots of local alternatives, including the minted Limonana or Laban, an energy drink made from sheep curd. In heat comparable to a European summer, staying hydrated will not be a bad idea. In hosting a largely dry tournament, Qatar is recording another World Cup first. What effect that will have on fan behaviour and the atmosphere will be something to watch.
How will the event be policed?
Qatar has strengthened domestic resources and recruited thousands of officers from abroad, with Turkish and Pakistani police taking key public order roles.
British police, who have worked closely with Qatar in recent years and provided training for officers, see potential for cultural differences between imported police and supporters. They are to take 15 “fan engagement officers” to monitor interactions between England fans and police and “deconflict” situations.
The possibility of hundreds of men being drunk in public at the same time is something the Muslim officers may not have encountered before. Recent leaked documents appear to show that Qatari safety authorities have agreed that there should be “no action, no prosecution” against drunk people and that police should also stand back in more provocative situations, such as the mounting of statues or the use of insulting language.
Guarantees that media would be safe to film (with the right permit) appeared to be broken on Tuesday when police seized the camera of a Danish correspondent while on air, though they subsequently apologised.
At many tournaments any fan found to have broken the law is usually sent home on the next plane, but there is as yet no clarity on what will happen in Qatar and whether people will end up in prison.
Last but not least, transport
All visitors are to receive free public transportation around Doha and access to stadium shuttle buses. But while accessing the transport network appears simple, getting to the grounds looks less so. Every stadium requires fans to take a shuttle bus from the nearest metro station, a journey which then requires a walk of sometimes more than half an hour. Other grounds require bus travel the entire way (plus a walk) and, according to some World Cup stalwarts, 1,000 bus journeys could be required to get fans on site for kick-off. Local residents are being encouraged to drive.
Questions include whether there will be access to water on longer walking routes, and options for fans wanting to get back to Doha after one of the 12 matches set to finish at about midnight.
Free public transport is available via Hayya, a visa-cum-ID card, which fans are expected to carry on an app. According to the German Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (BfDI), however, it is not safe to use. It advises uploading the app only to a phone that contains no sensitive personal information. “After using the apps,” the BfDI says, “the operating system and all content on the phone used should be completely deleted.”
The traditional travelling fan may be less visible than usual. Instead, fans from elsewhere – many from the Gulf, including a substantial expat community – will be filling the stands. If there is a change in atmosphere it will be interesting to note of what kind.
FIFA World Cup 2022 Highlights – Gorolive.com