In many ways, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a spoilsport around the globe, impacting many an event across multiple sports. Numerous events were cancelled or delayed, like Wimbledon, Euro 2020 and even the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
It has even posed quite a few challenges to the preparations being made for events coming up in the near future, including the 2022 World Cup in Qatar which is set to kick off in two years' time.
However, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), the organisation responsible for delivering the infrastructure for the World Cup, has taken the challenges in its stride and have not allowed them to halt progress.
Fatma Al-Nuaimi, Executive Communications Director of the SC, explains that being resilient and adaptive has helped them stay on track to deliver the World Cup on time. The stringent measures the Government of Qatar and the SC took to control the pandemic did help keep the World Cup projects tick along.
"Since we submitted the bid in 2010 the two things that we have learnt is to be resilient and be adaptive. We came through a lot of different challenges. When it comes to Covid-19, although it is very uncertain, we have come up with safety procedures for our workforce, as they are our top priority. We have been following the government protocols and have made sure that the work is not impacted," said Al-Nuaimi.
"When the pandemic hit, it made some changes to our plans this year. It did put some of the things on hold but we are trying to be adaptative and innovative to find new ways to communicate the progress and still excite the fans about this tournament.
"When the pandemic started we were distributing masks, hand sanitizers at all World Cup sites. We made sure to have isolation rooms at all official sites and the temperature was to be tested twice a day. Here in Doha, the pandemic has been largely controlled. We hope that in two years' time and with the news of 90 per cent vaccine trial success, things will, later on, turn out good," she added on a hopeful note.
Ever since Qatar won the hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup, the SC officials have been in conversations with major sporting events around the world, trying to pick the best practices and learn from them. Now with Covid-19 making an unwelcome appearance, Al-Nuaimi revealed that SC officials have been in conversations with several sports organisations.
The Tokyo Olympics is set to be held in 2021 now and will come right on the heels of the pandemic. In fact, it will be the first global event of that magnitude to be held after the pandemic struck. Al-Nuaimi explained that Qatar are in close conversations with those in Japan to learn and observe the challenges of holding a global event in such trying circumstances.
"We made sure actually that for every major event, we always have coordination with different federations, football organizing committees to actually start learning and adapting a lot of the lessons they have learnt in hosting. From the London Olympics to Brazil or Russia World Cups (2014 and 2018), we always make sure that we have a delegation that would go and learn from their organization.
"For sure for next year, we would have a delegation in Japan (for Tokyo Olympics) to learn – whether if held with Covid-19 protocols or hopefully by then, if Covid is already gone and things will be back to normal. I think there will be a lot of lessons learnt and a lot of offering that we can take from Japan before us hosting the World Cup."
Qatar themselves have experience of hosting tournaments during the pandemic, with the country playing hosts to the 2020 AFC Champions League. The domestic football league, Qatar Stars League, has also restarted in a bubble.
"There has been a lot of knowledge sharing during the pandemic like NFL (National Football League), AFC (Asian Football Confederation), Bundesliga and hosting a tournament during this period, bubble-to-bubble. J-League was one of the first to start in Asia once Covid-19 happened. We were the first in this region to kick-off with new health and safety procedures. By next year, there will be a lot of lessons learnt between both organizations," Al-Nuaimi said.
'Deliver Amazing' is the tagline for 2022 World Cup in Qatar and the SC are fully committed to doing so and ensure the fans who travel for the event will have a unique experience. The eight planned venues are all quite close to each other, making for a compact World Cup where fans and players do not have to travel huge distances to go from one venue to another. Each of those venues have cutting-edge features like the Advanced Cooling Tech and more.
Al-Nuaimi feels the fans are in for a unique, cultural experience in 2022.
"We have four stadiums completed, three of them inaugurated. Two of them where the contractor has completed work and another one will be completed in 2021. In 2021, we will be celebrating a lot of stadium inaugurations and utilise every opportunity that we have to test the venues operationally and to make sure that they are ready.
"What differentiates this World Cup is the compact nature of it. Teams and fans will not have to travel much to see their favourite teams. The closest stadium is just five minutes away and the farthest is just one hour away. Fans can enjoy themselves in the desert, watch a football match and taste the Arabian food that we have here. We want to offer a unique cultural experience to the fans."