HE HASSAN AL THAWADI

Qatar 2021 | SPORTS & TOURISM | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, about the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022, “Challenge 22", and “Generation Amazing."

The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ is the first to be held in the Arab World and just the third to happen outside of Europe and America. What does this milestone mean for Qatar beyond the obvious impact on the sports industry?

To us, the FIFA World Cup is more than just a football tournament – it is a celebration of our common humanity. This celebration is even more important in 2022 given the post-COVID-19 world we will likely be operating in. When we bid for the tournament over ten years ago, we realised the enormous potential of the region's first FIFA World Cup and the opportunities it would present us with to showcase our culture, talent, humour and passion for football. Today, as we edge closer to 2022, we are excited to share our country, culture and region with millions who will travel for the tournament in less than two years' time. More importantly, Qatar's geographic location provides an optimal central global platform that will bring people together, bridge cultures from East to West to enhance mutual understanding and break down long-standing misconceptions about our beautiful region. In the context of COVID-19, the tournament is likely to be one of the world's first truly global gatherings that fans and teams will be able to confidently travel to and enjoy. This outlook reaffirms Qatar's vision for the tournament as a platform that will bring people together in 2022, and adds further significance to our efforts to ensuring the success of the tournament. We hope to deliver a 28-day celebration that the entire world can embrace and are confident we are on track to do so. Beyond the tournament, we have always maintained that the power of the FIFA World Cup transcends beyond the action on the pitch and the stadiums and infrastructure. We consider the tournament a unique tool to accelerate positive and sustainable economic, social, environmental and human development not just for Qatar, but the region as well, leaving behind a lasting legacy. The tournament has already positively impacted the country and the region, two years before it is set to begin. Whether it is increased economic activity directly or indirectly through preparations for hosting, increased participation in sports leading to healthier lifestyles, or developing and accelerating innovative sustainable building practices and standards, 2022 has already had a profound impact on the country and will have a lasting impact for generations to come.

We are already starting to understand the impressive delivery the SC will achieve in late 2022; however, the legacy of the 2022 FIFA World Cup is a long-term process that will probably reach its peak in 2030 with the culmination of Qatar National Vision. How will the 2022 FIFA World Cup help set a precedent for future events in terms of legacy? What is the fit of the event in the process that will lead to the culmination of the 2030 Qatar National Vision?

Being the first World Cup in the Arab World and the Middle East, and recognising the power of sport – and football in particular – as a catalyst and driver for positive change, we wanted to make sure the tournament left a long-standing legacy not just for the people of Qatar, but the region as a whole. The State of Qatar's National Vision 2030 addresses four key pillars – human, social, economic and environmental development. In planning for the tournament and curating our legacy programmes, we ensured everything we do supported the realisation of that vision – thereby placing sustainability and legacy at the heart of every project we undertake. From an economic perspective, Qatar has always viewed the FIFA World Cup 2022 as a catalyst for accelerating not only the growth of the local economy by providing opportunities for local businesses, companies and contractors, but also wider infrastructure and nation-building projects. This has already had a significant impact on Qatar and helped accelerate a number of existing national infrastructure projects that are transforming the country into a modern and connected nation – a legacy that will be felt for generations to come. For example, the Doha Metro – which opened in full towards the end of 2019 and will be one of the main modes of transport during the tournament – is already today a critical method of transport for the people of Qatar, helping take cars off the road, reducing carbon emissions, and supporting the realisation of the country's environmental development goals. We are also utilising the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 as a platform for several legacy programmes aimed at supporting the realisation of the National Vision 2030, specifically a knowledge based economy and economic diversification. For example, Challenge 22 – our flagship innovation programme – supports the small and medium enterprises sector by opening the door for entrepreneurs and innovators to explore solutions that directly enhance or address the challenges related to hosting mega events, such as the FIFA World Cup, and bring benefits to Qatar and the wider region. We offer local and regional projects grants and mentoring to help innovators take their ideas from concept to market realisation and have a number of success stories to date that will live long after the last ball has been kicked. Josoor Institute, our education and training arm, is helping with the country's economic diversification and human capital development efforts. It aims at building the capabilities of the sports and events industries in Qatar and the region in the run up to the FIFA World Cup through education, training, professional certification, consultancy and research. Tourism, property, media, service and manufacturing are just some of the sectors that will rapidly grow while Qatar's successful track record in hosting first-class mega events continues to expand. From a modernisation and preservation of traditions perspective, our state of art stadiums echo the spirit and essence of Arab and Qatari heritage and culture. One example is Al Thumama Stadium, which is inspired by the gahfiya – a traditional woven hat worn by men across the GCC region and a symbol of dignity and independence. This venue will be utilised by the people of Qatar long after the tournament concludes – post 2022, once its capacity is reduced to 20,000 seats, a boutique hotel will replace the stadium's upper stands, while a branch of Aspetar clinic will open on site. In addition, the stadium's precinct can be utilised by the community for a variety of sporting activities – as well as the establishment of a number of retail and commercial units to ensure the area becomes a bustling hub of exercise and activity. The same can be said about Al Bayt Stadium, our northern-most tournament venue. This sporting arena takes the shape of Bayt Al Sha'ar, which is the tent used by the nomadic people of the desert in Qatar and the region. The tent exemplifies the Arab region's hospitable and welcoming nature. After Qatar 2022, the upper concourse of the stadium will be converted into various facilities. The skyboxes will be turned into a 5-star hotel, while a shopping centre, food court, gym and multipurpose hall will be incorporated into the stadium building. When it comes to social development, the power of this FIFA World Cup to deliver a true social legacy is perhaps most visible when one looks at the deep and far-reaching labour reforms implemented by the Government in Qatar over the last decade, which has seen numerous improvements that have set new benchmarks locally and across the region.

An event with the dimensions of a FIFA World Cup has the potential not only to impact local and regional realities, but also to become a universal phenomenon that can set international best practices. Can you briefly guide us through the most important points of the following legacy programs: workers' welfare, environmental neutrality, and Generation Amazing? How is the SC working to maximize the global impact of the event in terms of best practices?

For the first time ever, a joint FIFA World Cup Sustainability Strategy was developed and launched jointly by FIFA, the host country and the Local Organising Committee. The multifaceted policy document looks at several functional areas, including human, social and environmental sustainability – and guides much of the planning and delivery for the tournament by all three entities. Sustainability has sat at the heart of all planning for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 since we started our journey in preparing for the tournament over ten years ago, and is a central tenet of the legacy we are working to ensure the tournament leaves. When it comes to workers' welfare, ensuring and protecting workers' rights is a long-standing area that we are helping the State of Qatar tackle – both on our projects but from a wider country perspective as well. I am proud to say that our efforts in developing, fine-tuning and implementing our Workers' Welfare Standards across our projects is one of the key legacies Qatar's World Cup is leaving. While a lot of progress has been achieved – more remains, but I am confident that the positive momentum achieved to date will continue to have a positive impact on the local labour market and Qatar's international standing and attractiveness to talent around the world. One of the key issues we have recently tackled is the topic of ethical recruitment and the reimbursement of recruitment fees – a global issue that migrant workers face in many parts of the world. Recruitment fees are illegal under Qatari law, and addressing the matter is a complex issue with fees often paid in 'sending countries.' In collaboration with our local contractors, we have been able to return these payments to more than 40,000 workers. The total figure is in excess of USD30 million, and is second only to Apple on a worldwide scale. We also have a series of initiatives to support the wellbeing of workers across our sites, including a nutrition programme, a mental health programme, in addition to the development and use of innovative wearable cooling technology to ease summer working conditions. Looking at the environment, with climate change increasingly becoming a global issue, we clearly commit in our Sustainability Strategy to deliver the world's first carbon neutral FIFA World Cup – a pledge that will not only directly benefit the environment, but also raise awareness of the importance of environmental sustainability locally and regionally, leaving a lasting positive legacy. Our approach to achieving this includes four phases – raising awareness of the importance of sustainability; measurement of the tournament's carbon inventory; mitigation of emissions in the lead up and during the tournament; and finally offsetting any remaining emissions. In planning for the tournament and after discussions with FIFA, we identified that eight venues would be the optimum number to ensure that they meet Qatar's post-tournament needs and that no “white elephant" venues are left behind after 2022. Demountable seating will also support this, which will see Qatar donate over 170,000 seats to projects and countries lacking sporting infrastructure as part of the tournament's legacy. This will ensure many of the venues 2022 leaves for the local professional leagues are fit for purpose and have a reduced operational impact post-tournament, both sustainability and economically speaking. When it comes to construction, we aimed to mitigate the environmental impact of the tournament as much as possible, and followed the Global Sustainability Assessment System by the Gulf Organisation for Research & Development as the environmental certification system to guide the process. With thanks to a collaborative approach, we have been able to deliver the infrastructure required for hosting the tournament according to the highest of standards of sustainable venue construction. On FIFA World Cup stadiums, this involved Qatari entities partnering with international partners to achieve sustainable design, construction, operations and management – setting new benchmarks that we hope the rest of the industry locally and internationally can benefit from. At this juncture on the road to 2022, as we transition from delivering the tournament's infrastructure to refining its operational planning, maintaining this green momentum will be of crucial importance, and we are working with all sectors that have a part to play in delivering the tournament to ensure sustainable operations across the entire country. The tournament's compact footprint will also be a major sustainability advantage, as it will completely eliminate the need for internal air travel throughout the competition. No doubt, due to the nature of energy that is used in our current day, there will be emissions that will be unavoidable. These will be offset through investing in carbon credits across a number of a good quality projects in Qatar and the region, helping support environmentally conscious projects and raising awareness on the importance of sustainability. Branching away from the environment and moving into social development, we always affirmed our commitment to utilise the FIFA World Cup as a platform to launch unique solutions to difficult global issues. One of the ways we are doing this is through Generation Amazing – our flagship social responsibility programme, which we launched during the bid. It uses the power of football to positively impact lives, create sustainable social development in communities in Qatar and around the world and encourage social cohesion. Targeting schoolchildren and migrant workers in Qatar, and vulnerable and displaced youth abroad, the programme empowers new generations of young leaders to transform their communities through football and create sustainable programmes that will generate exciting social development opportunities long the final whistle in 2022. The programme already has over 500,000 beneficiaries and is well on the way to achieve its ultimate goal of positively impacting the lives of a million people by 2022.