• | 10:30 am

Sheikh Tamim hails FIFA World Cup as a vehicle for change at Davos summit

The Emir of Qatar also mentioned the criticism coming from people in positions of influence.

[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

At the semi-final of the Under-20 FIFA World Cup in Australia, Badr Bilal’s spectacular bicycle kick met the back of the net to help Qatar defeat England and reach the finals. The team, which shocked the world with this feat in 1981, was chosen as ambassadors for Qatar’s bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022. The world was taken by surprise when Qatar was awarded to host the tournament, becoming the first Arab country to host the World Cup.

But Qatar has been tackling controversies since then, facing questions about the treatment of foreign workers and women’s rights. In response to this, Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Monday addressed the issue at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “These individuals, including many in positions of influence, have launched attacks at a pace never seen before,” said the ruler of the energy-rich state, less than six months from the November 21 start of the tournament.

While acknowledging that Qatar was “not perfect,” he said the discrimination against the Middle East arises from people not knowing the region or refusing to know more about it. “Even today, people cannot accept the idea that an Arab-Muslim country would host a tournament like the World Cup.”

He reiterated the belief expressed by both FIFA and Qatar that the World Cup is changing the laws and society in Qatar for the better. He credited the spotlight provided by the event for the reforms and progress that the country has made.

Promoting the landmark event in the Middle East’s sporting history at Davos, Sheikh Tamim concluded his speech describing sports as a “tool for positive change, promotes tolerance and respect, empowers youth, and inspires unity.”

The country is also enhancing its infrastructure for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and will electrify a quarter of its bus fleet for sustainable transportation. Sensors across Doha will monitor traffic and cabs in real-time to help visitors find the best routes to reach stadiums. Cooling solutions have been installed to ensure that the temperature at stadiums is restricted to 26 degrees celsius.

Other amenities for making fans comfortable include smart wifi and charging stations. A platform for converting digital content to braille will also be deployed for visually impaired people to enjoy the world cup.

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