Doha (AFP) – The main organizer of the Qatar World Cup on Wednesday announced a “record-breaking” demand with 1.2 million tickets sold, but admitted that it would be difficult to prevent a profit from rising prices.
Hassan al-Tawadi, head of the November-December tournament organizing committee, said he was working to limit the “price-target” as costs rise for the limited housing in the Qatari capital.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said that there were five million tickets for the final at the 80,000-seat Lucile Stadium, indicating feverish demand for the first World Cup in the Middle East.
“I think about 1.2 million tickets have already been purchased,” al-Tawadi told the Qatar Economic Forum in Doha. “So people are really buying and people are eager to get there. There’s no doubt about that.”
Approximately 40 million tickets were received in two phases of online sales, organizing committee officials said. A total of two million tickets are sold, with another million reserved for the World Organization FIFA and sponsors.
Doha, with a population of about 2.4 million, is bracing itself for a massive influx of visitors. The 32-team tournament will be held in eight stadiums in and around the capital, putting extra pressure on the infrastructure.
Qatar says it has 130,000 rooms in hotels, apartments, cruise ships and desert camps, with 1,000 tents. It promised shared rooms for as little as $ 85 a night.
“There will be glamping,” Infantino told the forum, referring to high-level camping. Traditional, Bedouin-style tents are equipped with water and electricity, but without air conditioning.
“Housing is not a worry,” he added. “Everything is done to get adequate housing ready here and in neighboring countries.”
– ‘Qatar-bushing’ –
More than 160 round-trip shuttle flights a day bring fans from neighboring countries, reducing pressure on accommodation, but doubling capacity at Doha’s two international airports.
To limit the number of fans, only people with match tickets are allowed to enter a small, gas-rich country during the World Cup.
But al-Tawadi admitted it was “tricky” in housing prices, which skyrocketed in demand.
“(We want) to avoid price increases,” he said. “Obviously market forces always mean that prices will skyrocket as long as there is enough demand.
“We are trying to create an environment where the business community can benefit but at the same time, it is affordable and accessible to fans.”
Al-Tawadi lowered the prospect of protests after repeated criticism of foreign workers in Qatar and laws against homosexuality. Shows are rare in Qatar.
“Everyone is welcome. But in appreciating where you come from, we have a very rich culture. We ask people to respect our culture, ”he said.
Infantino dismissed concerns that fans could be arrested for minor violations. Drinking in public in a conservative country is also a crime.
“If they start fighting in the streets and they destroy something, people will be arrested, and we don’t expect that to happen in the World Cups in general,” Infantino said.
Questions on rights and freedoms are mounting in Qatar as the World Cup approaches, which has been receiving increasingly harsh responses from authorities.
Accor’s CEO, the Qatari-invested French hotel chain, has agreed to provide housing services – using thousands of foreign workers – to dismiss labor rights criticism as “Qatar-bushing.”
“I hear so many people doing some Qatar-bashing and they seem to be enjoying it,” Sebastian Bazin told AFP, “We do everything we can so this Qatar-bushing is unfounded.”
He promised to find jobs after the World Cup for the 13,000 people recruited to work with Akar in the tournament.