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Qatar Might Even Be Accused of Buying the Sky

Qatari leaders have made no secret of their megalomania or have not hidden the amount of the budget allocated to the hosting of the 2022 World Cup: 220 billion US dollars. By comparison, Russia paid 11.6 billion US dollars for the previous edition; 15 billion US dollars in 2014 in Brazil, and fewer than 7 billion US dollars for previous editions. The Qataris have built six new stadiums and the country has aimed, through this World Cup, a continuity in the country’s development program. In addition to stadiums, countless infrastructures have emerged, including metro lines, hotels, airports, roads. Qatar wanted to show, through this event, the world power they are creating or that Qatar would like to measure itself against its neighbours and no less competitors such as the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia. It is a World Cup of excess and Qatar has been criticised for this arrogance, criticism coming mainly from the European continent. It remains to be seen whether all the criticisms that sometimes seem to indicate a certain condescension are justified.

Qatar Accused of All the Sins

The conditions under which world football’s body, Fifa, decided in 2010 to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar has been strongly criticised. Strong suspicions of corruption made the media headlines. Large sums of money were allegedly distributed to influential figures in Fifa. The various actors did in negation and according to the postures, some senior leaders of Fifa at the time, such as the Swiss Sepp Blatter (replaced by Gianni Infantino at the head of Fifa), waited for example till last week, the opening of the World Cup in Qatar to regret the choice of this country.

Accusations of corruption have also been raised in the sport. Critics of hosting the World Cup in Qatar accused the authorities of this oil and gas emirate of seeking to bribe players from Ecuador, Qatar’s first opponent in the opening match. We saw that the Ecuadorians had perfectly respected sporting fairness and played a free match to finally beat Qatar in front of their public and their Emir on the score of 2 goals to 0. Their other opponent in Group A, Senegal, did not tie in the lace also beating Qatar on the score of 3 goals to 1. Perhaps if there was a team that Qatar could buy, it would be the Netherlands for the last match of their group this Tuesday, November 29, 2022. Unless only players and coaches of Third World teams are corruptible!

For the World Cup preparations, Qatar brought to its soil more than 1.7 million migrant workers from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Uganda, Zambia among others. These migrant workers saw an opportunity to escape poverty in their own countries. The inhumane working conditions were denounced as well as the low level of wages paid to these categories of workers. The media highlighted a « hecatomb » with a number of 15,000 deaths among these workers in the space of twelve years. The announcement did not fail to cause a terrible stir. However, one cannot fail to note that this raw figure, in relation to the total population of migrant workers, is of the order of 17 deaths per 1000 persons over a period of twelve years, or less than 1.5 deaths per 1000 inhabitants per year. The average death rate in Qatar is 1.6 deaths per 1000 people.Look at the death rates in India, Nepal and Bangladesh that are four times higher!

Qatar was also harassed for its failures on environmental damage due to the mega-constructions planned to host the event.Any other country that organises an event of this magnitude would build stadiums, roads, highways, airports. To give guarantees, Qatar built some stadiums with recycled materials and removable constructions. Criticism related to climatic conditions with an ambient heat level that exceeds on average 40 degrees Celsius has led to the installation of air conditioners in stadiums. But the Qataris found an unexpected parade or feat, that of bribing the skies so that the thermometers drop to 24 degrees. It was no longer necessary to run the giant air conditioners. Would they not employ means and lack of scruples?

Qatar has been criticised for human rights violations. It is an open secret that the Qatari monarchy is relentless against its opponents or any conscientious objector. The country is also known for not tolerating any sexual practice deemed depraving, and heavy penalties are imposed on perpetrators. The rights of Qatari women were also a concern, especially since they could not travel abroad without the permission of a male guardian. This is an archaism from another agealthough Qatar fare no better than many Arab or Muslim countries on the register of women’s rights. Only, on this register of democracy, freedoms and human rights, can we say that a country like Russia, for example, which hosted the 2018 World Cup, would give better guarantees than Qatar? Certainly not! The fact remains that if this logic of paragon of human rights and freedoms should be followed, it would be very difficult across the different regions of the world to find countries eligible to host a World Cup. Moreover, the idea of banning the organization of the World Cup in Qatar on the grounds of anti-democratic and liberticidal practices would be tantamount to opening a Pandora’s box. Indeed, there are many countries qualified for this edition of the World Cup and which do no better than Qatar in terms of democratic practices, respect for the rights of women or LGBT people or the application of the death penalty or the rights of migrant workers or discriminations linked to gender, race or religion.

Qatar’s Beautiful Responses to Its Critics

AA and other organizations that fight alcoholism should be proud of the efforts in Qatar. The ban on the sale of alcohol around stadiums was eventually accepted by all spectators. Maybe this too participated in creating a certain good atmosphere, even festive and the absence of outbursts in the stadiums. No doubt visitors from Qatar have understood that you do not go to someone’s home by demanding that they change the rules of reception. In truth, no one was forced to go to Qatar, the public was certainly there. The security officials have not been too tested. It must be said that the course of the competition is so far very peaceful. Better, every time their team was beaten, the Qatari fans returned with dignity and participated in the celebration alongside the winners. The jubilation of the celebration by Saudi fans of their victory against Argentina (2-1) through the streets of Doha is enough to testify to the good state of mind, when we know the poor diplomatic relations between Qatar and its big neighbour. Have we already forgotten the chaos of the European Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid last year at the Stade de France in Paris?

The attendance is very high. Threats of public boycott have had no effect. The stadiums are always well trimmed with enthusiastic supporters. Also, the competition continues to break all viewer records. But it is on the spot that we can better measure how successful Qatar has been in its organisation. Many criticisms have thus appeared unfair or fantasies.Pointing this out to some people might seem like having been bought by Qatar, which would have no virtue than to pay the satisfied with its petrodollars, but it must be said that Qatar’s visitors to this football World Cup were entitled to another reality before their eyes. Doha’s two civilian airports have never been overwhelmed by the influx of thousands of fans. The traveller disembarking in Doha does not spend more than 10 minutes between disembarkation, border police and the baggage carpet. I have already had to experience the conditions at check-in on departure and boarding. Everything also goes smoothly and within very short deadlines. Never would one find a better airport experience. Who does not remember the harassment at Moscow airports in 2018 where passengers stayed many hours in the international zone before being able to enter the country? How many hours do passengers usually lose at French, American, English or German international airports for travel procedures and formalities?

Access to the various stadiums is also fluid, no traffic jam is deplored. Wider roads have made traffic easier or smoother and Doha’s new metro has made it possible to transport large crowds of supporters free of charge. In the vicinity of the stadium’s agents responsible for guiding the public are available. The welcome is friendly and in a good-natured atmosphere. The hotels offered a quality of service which honours the country.

Qatar was eliminated in the first round of its World Cup but it will have succeeded perfectly in its organisation, silencing all criticism. The stadiums were most modern and functional and no team had to complain about any avatar of the lawns and playing or training facilities. The animation of the stadiums was diversified and multicultural and the sound system impeccable. It remains to be seen what to do with all these infrastructure on the evening of December 18, 2022, the date of the competition’s finale. The country has only some 2 million 600 thousand inhabitants with 80% of whom are immigrants and these infrastructure 5 XL will appear oversized. Demountable stadiums are promised to be offered to other countries and some others transformed into shopping malls.

Post-scriptum: « I refused to ask President Macky Sall for tax exemption on my Mamelles project. » Last week, following my column entitled: « I will not cede to smartphone blackmail« , a friend official of the Pastef party called me to point out that I hid the taxation of my real estate project in progress in Mamelles. I told him that I was comfortable raising this issue because I had actually benefited from an exemption issued by the Investment Promotion Agency (Apix) following examination of my file, as is also the case with any investor meeting certain criteria. However, at the time of the implementation of this exemption, I was told that I would need a specific decision from the Minister of Finance and Budget. Minister Abdoulaye Daouda Diallo was reluctant to agree because he felt he had to control exemptions sparingly.Thus, he asked me to solicit the « Boss » (Macky Sall) to instruct him with regards to my request for exemption. I clearly told him that this will not be the case because I refuse to ask the President of the Republic for this. Thus, I have not been able to take advantage of the said exemption and it is open to anyone to be able to verify it. The bankers and the company in charge of the work could not understand my attitude. Never mind!

By Madiambal DIAGNE / mdiagne@lequotidien.sn

  • Translation by Ndey T. SOSSEH


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