Hassan Al Thawadi - Transformational 2022 World Cup has accelerated social and labour reforms in Qatar

Hassan Al ThawadiGetty Images

WHAT HAPPENED: With the World Cup just about two months away, Qatar are excited and looking forward to the welcoming the world to the Middle-East. Secretary General of the Supreme Committee of Delivery & Legacy (SC), Hassan Al Thawadi, stated that ever since Qatar bid for the 2022 World Cup, the country has been banking on the tournament's transformational power to effect far-reaching changes in the country and open the region to the world.

WHAT DID HE SAY: Al Thawadi mentioned that Qatar's journey, right from submitting the bid to almost two months away from the kick-off, has been exciting and eventful.

"It's (the journey) been exciting and challenging. It has been fulfilling as well. We approached the bid recognising the importance of the first World Cup in the Middle-East. We recognised the transformational power such an event could have in the region," he said during the Concordia Annual Summit in New York on Monday.

"The passion for the game is huge in the Middle-East. The World Cup has the ability to connect people with different ethnicities, different cultures and values, and help them celebrate something common. We've faced challenges (on the way) but we've never had any regrets," he added.

ABOUT THE TRANSFORMATIONAL WORLD CUP: The high-ranking Qatari official also spoke about how the World Cup transformed Qatar and helped them accelerate towards achieving their national vision of 2030.

"When we bid for the World Cup, we knew it was not just a sporting event. We knew it had transformational power. If a nation embraces that power, it can accelerate infrastructure development and effect social change," Al Thawadi said.

He also spoke on how the infrastruccture developments and social reforms like labour reforms that SC initiated were not just due to the fact that Qatar were holding a World Cup. In fact, he said the hosting of the 2022 World Cup only accelerated the process rather than kick-starting the reforms.

"What the World Cup did was it allowed for many reforms to be enforced well. We had laws but enforcement was not at that level. But World Cup has been a vehicle that has pushed these reforms forward. We've faced criticism on the way and welcomed them to ensure we are on the right path.

"The ILO (International Labour Organisation) and ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) who were adversories first now promote the work that has been done in Qatar. More importantly, these reforms will last beyond the World Cup.

Al Bayt Stadium site, Qatar

The work we've done in the SC, it is a benchmark because it had a great impact on the country. We launched worker welfare forums within SC projects. These were set up to ensure workers could raise their grievances. We learnt along the way with the help of other orgnaisations on how to improve these forums and make them more effective. Now, these frums can be found all over Qatar's projects. But it was started within SC.

WHAT'S MORE: Al Thawadi went on to talk about an example of SC's far reaching reforms.

"For example, the recruitment fees. A lot of workers, when they go to other countries have to pay the employer or agent some recruitment fees. It is illegal but it is prevalent everywhere. Even if workers complained about it, the burden of proof was on them. But we were able to work with companies in our projects and flip the burden of proof on the company instead of the employee. These companies have reimbursed $23 million of $28 million of such fees to workers. It is a model we want to push across Qatar and globally as well."

"The legacy (of the World Cup) is being delivered now. And these labour reforms won't end after 2022 World Cup. It is long lasting."

WHAT IS THE LEGACY: Al Thawadi went on to explain the legacy of the World Cup and how Qatar planned its infrastructure also with an eye beyond the 2022 World Cup.

"From day 1, legacy was at the forefront of our plans. Every single aspect and every penny spent was planned with legacy in mind. What the World Cup did was accelerate infrastructure development that was planned by the government (even before World Cup bid) - the Doha Metro is an example. The World Cup only accelerated these initiatives.

Stadium 974 was built using shipping containers for Qatar 2022SC

"For every single stadium built, we engaged with local communities to understand how they can be used after the World Cup. Most stadiums will be reduced in size afterwards. Lusail Stadium (the biggest stadium) will not be a stadium and it will be remodelled into something else entirely. There is the 974 Stadium which will be disassembled. It was built using shipping containers, set up like a Lego. Every aspect was about what happens after the World Cup. Of course, we are hosting major events like 2030 Asian Games. We want to host the Olympics as well."