Q&A with Hassan Al Thawadi, CEO of the Qatar bid for the FIFA 2022 World Cup

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The Brazil v England friendly at Khalifa Stadium in Doha next month is a good promotional opportunity for the bid (Qatar 2022)
(WFI) Hassan Al Thawadi, CEO of the Qatar 2022 World Cup bid, explains why Qatar is bidding, the challenges presented by the Gulf state's hot weather, plans to develop cooling technologies for stadia and the passion for football in the Arab emirate.

It's the first in a series of interviews with the 10 bids in the race for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

Australia, England, Holland/ Belgium, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Spain/ Portugal and the US are also bidding. Mexico dropped out of the running last week, citing a lack of financial resources and issues associated with upgrading its stadia infrastructure.

WFI: Why Qatar, what does the bid concept offer to FIFA and the global football movement?

HA: I believe having the World Cup in the Middle East for the first time is a very big statement FIFA can make. Qatar will be lighting a torch for the region. Bringing the World Cup is a message to the rest of the world and a showcase for the Middle East. The bid is quite a unique and powerful concept.

Why is it time for the World Cup to be held in the Middle East?
I think FIFA has had a lot of firsts – the first World Cup in Asia [Japan/S. Korea in 2002] then to Africa [next year]. Both have been wonderful. This is the right time to show what we can offer in uniting Western and Eastern cultures but more importantly leaving legacies for the future generations, including creating a greater understanding of the Middle East for the rest of the world.

What are the bid's unique selling points over its rivals?
It will be a historic decision to bring the World Cup to the Middle East – this is a strong selling point for us. It would be a compact World Cup and people are going to be able to experience each of the [participating] countries and their cultures. It’s going to be unique for fans; it’ll be a family-oriented World Cup.

How many new stadia would you need to build?
FIFA asks for 12-18 stadia and I believe we can fulfill these requirements. We do have a powerful message that we will be passing on with launch events for each particular development. We have some great and innovative ideas for stadia and look forward to sharing them in due course.

How is the Qatar leadership planning to raise the bid's profile on the global stage?
The bid for the World Cup has support from the highest echelons [of Qatar government] all the way down to the youngster kicking a ball in the street. Everyone is extremely passionate about bringing the World Cup to Qatar. This is the most important message to pass on… that the entire country is supporting the plan and we will be using the bid milestones, as well as key events and conferences to proactively communicate our vision and plans.

What are the key challenges to overcome?
One of the challenges everyone has got in their mind is the question of the weather. We believe we can change perceptions on this point. We are looking at different alternatives in [cooling] technologies for stadiums, plus training areas and fan zones that will alleviate these concerns. We are also looking to use these technologies in an environmentally-friendly and energy efficient way and to offer them to other parts of the world… it’s part of our message of social development.

How can you convince the FIFA Executive that heat would not be an issue for players at a Qatar World Cup?
The Qatar Olympic Committee Tower is wrapped in 2022 branding for the Oct.4 bid launch (Qatar 2022)
are looking towards developing innovative air cooling technologies and we will have these in our bid book. Heat might be an issue right now but other World Cups have actually been played in countries where heat is an issue, where summer temperatures reach over 45 degrees. We are confident we have solutions and look forward to showcasing these as we go through the bid process.

What are your plans for indoor, air-conditioned stadia?
If you are talking about the first indoor World Cup [as was widely reported over the summer], that is not part of our bid. We are definitely looking at different options and having cooling technologies for stadia but indoor stadiums is not the overall theme. Khalifa Stadium and Al Saad, an open-air venue, has developed cooling technologies. We are looking at solar systems and renewable energy sources for the cooling of stadiums.

Can Qatar succeed in its World Cup bid when Doha failed to make the IOC shortlist for the 2016 Olympics?
The bid processes for the Olympics and World Cup are very different. For us every bid we enter into is always a stepping stone for us to learn from. We sat down with
Al Thawadi says there is a real passion for football in Qatar shown at games such as last weekend's Qatar Stars League football match in Doha (Getty Images)
the 2016 committee to understand where some of the shortfalls were, plus the strong points, to develop that in our bid.

In what ways would a Qatar World Cup be different from South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014?
Every World Cup has its own special feel to it. Brazil and South Africa will showcase their cultures. What Qatar is offering is bringing the World Cup to the Middle East to showcase the Arab culture to other countries – that is a very strong element.

Why not bid for 2018?
We looked at it as being four years more… we are realistic. In 2022 we will be able to host a very, very successful World Cup. That is four years more where we can plan to truly offer the world a unique experience. These years are a significant time for us.

Is there enough passion for football in Qatar and the region to generate a football carnival at the World Cup?
Absolutely. Football is in our blood from the youngest, the kids in the street, to the oldest sitting and watching football on television. This part of the world is crazy about football. If you go to games here, like in the Gulf Cup, you will see that. And the World Cup itself generates its own passion. The Brazil versus England game at Doha’s Khalifa Stadium in November will show the passion that people here have for the game.

Describe your marketing pitch for the World Cup to drive ticket sales?
The World Cup markets itself and the passion in this part of the world for football ensures people will flock to the tournament. We have people traveling to the corners of the earth to watch the World Cup. The baby boom of the younger generation has got quite a big population here and bringing the World Cup to them is a very important marketing element we have got. Also, we have the Al Jazeera sports channel… from today all the way to the FIFA vote in 2010 we have events showcasing our strategy. Brazil versus England is one of them.

How do you plan to engage the football world during the 15-month bid campaign?
October 4 was the launch of our website and we are rolling out our brand and announcing ambassadors. That is one of the events that was quite big. We will try to be at the forefront in choosing new technologies… digital media offer significant ways for reaching people all over the world and we are looking for interactivity.

How do you rate your chances of securing the 2022 World Cup?
We would not enter anything without thinking we could win it. We are dedicated to this and believe we have a good chance.

Written by WFI editor Mark Bisson (mark@worldfootballinsider.com)

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