Monday, October 3, 2022

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The reality of the World Cup in Qatar… Alcohol bans, gloomy rooms for fans and Big Brother spy cameras

Harry Kane will never have known such a projection – a 30ft image of the England captain is wrapped around a glass skyscraper in central Doha.

It makes him a dominant part of the visual landscape en route to the World Cup Media Center, where every single pre-match press conference is held during the tournament.

He’s not the only one. Luis Suarez, Luka Modric, Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane are among the 13 players also “wrapped” around buildings. One from each competing nation should follow by November 20, when image rights approval can be secured.

The World Cup and its stars will be showcased like never before by a host country. The players are pictured throughout, as is the tournament slogan, “Now is all.”

But beyond the razzmatazz, how is this tiny nation prepared for an influx of a million fans? And how will the experience be for the backers?

getting around

It’s World Cup fever from the moment you step on a Qatar Airways plane. Robert Lewandowski and Neymar can be seen in the safety video on board. The cushions read: “Football is passion.”

Hamad International Airport has smooth efficiency, with a metro station at Terminal 2 connecting the network’s red line to central Doha. The Tube stops within 10 minutes’ walk of five of the eight stadiums, including Khalifa International, where England play Iran, and Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, where Wales play all three group games.

But be careful not to get in the wrong carriage: some are for families and women-only. For the first time, any fan with a ticket to a game can ride the host country’s subway for free by waving the all-important Hayya Card app – which must be secured in order to obtain a visa for the country and the games.

The Uber network is effective, although coverage is rigorously tested. To take traffic off the often congested roads, Qatar has declared the month of the tournament a school holiday.

Where to sleep?

It’s a chaotic, last-minute race to vacate rooms and it’s a cause for concern for the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA). The main hotels in Doha have had 80 percent of their rooms taken away by FIFA, which has marketed them.

But a number of hoteliers say that when they get the unsold ones back – by the end of the month – their priority will be their oil and gas industry customers installing their drillers in them.

Many of the cheapest £70-a-night villas and apartments are gone and while 20,000 more rooms are expected to become available in the next few weeks, there is a big rush to get them ready in time.

There was high demand for November 24th and 25th, the early days of the tournament, so the FSA says anyone who still wants to book for the full two weeks should consider splitting bookings by booking during the Tournament changes from place to place. This could help keep costs down.

The Qataris have just announced that locals will be allowed to rent out their own villas to international fans. At Airbnb, you can hardly go under £200 a night.

There are 20 accommodations on booking.com for the first three nights of the tournament. Many different contractors build the facilities. This seems to add to the challenges of getting a clear picture of what will be ready and when. Qatar says 100,000 rooms will be available per night.

tent life

A tent village, the “Al Khor Camp”, which is one of the official accommodation options, was still under construction at that time sports mail Visited 10 days ago and will be built in the desert on a cul-de-sac 40 minutes drive north of central Doha.

We tend to see square canvas dwellings that campers would go into rather than Glastonbury-style tents.

Security guards tightly guard it but tell us there will be beds in the tents, a communal pool, gym, tennis courts and air conditioning. Small wooden food kiosks have already been built.

One will sell Egyptian and Lebanese “Koshari and Falafel”. Another is the ‘Blue Mountain Cafe’. Qatar says 1,000 Bedouin-style tents will be pitched. The cheapest marketed at Al Khor is the Deluxe King Tent for two, which is spacious, comes with wardrobes and a flat-screen TV, but costs a cool £365 a night.

Fans need to make their own entertainment up there, and that doesn’t include alcohol, despite the complex being built on Al Farkiah beach. It is just a few kilometers from Al Bayt Stadium where England plays USA. There is also said to be a Caravan City run by a company called Asco Trading.

… Or cabin fever

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