Doha: With just three months left for kick-off, Qatar is in an overdrive as final preparations for the FIFA World Cup 2022 gather pace.
A total of 2.45 million tickets have been sold for the tournament, organisers announced on Friday confirming that Qatar led the ranking of ticket sales by country of residence. This was followed by the US, England, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, the UAE, France, Argentina, Brazil and Germany.
The first football World Cup to be held in the Middle East and the Arab world will start on November 20, with about 1.2 million fans from across the world expected to congregate in the tiny Gulf nation, which has kicked up quite a bit of dust by trying a paradigm shift in the history of the game.
Organisers have said that launch date of the last-minute sales phase for tickets will be announced in late September. Following this, the date for over-the-counter sales will also be declared, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said.
Qatar's public road transport entity on Thursday conducted a bus trial run in preparation for the event. More than 1,300 buses on a number of routes ferried people to different venues to prepare drivers for the grand event that will test the mettle of organisers and authorities alike.
This will be the first FIFA World Cup to be played in winter after the global football body allowed the change of dates even though Qatar built air-conditioned stadiums for the tournament.
Extensive construction has been undertaken for the World Cup with public and sports infrastructure being spruced up across the country of 2.7 million. Eight well-equipped stadiums will host the tournament with the final being played on December 18 -- Qatar's National Day -- in the Lusail Stadium on the outskirts of capital Doha.
Local media reported Friday that the 80,000-capacity stadium was "hundred per cent" ready to host the World Cup finals after obtaining all the approvals confirming the completion of facilities.
The venue has obtained clearance from the Civil Defence Department (fire service), the Security Systems Department and also received the building completion certificate, Lusail Stadium project manager Tamim El Abed was quoted as saying to Qatar News Agency. He, however, added that the logistical work in the vicinity of the stadium remains a work in progress and will be completed two months before the tournament.
"What distinguishes the stadium from other stadiums that hosted World Cup matches is that its entire construction was carried out from the scratch in keeping with FIFA standards," El Abed said. The stadium is equipped with complex cooling and television broadcasting systems that need continuous testing.
With the country funnelling funds into infrastructure in the run-up to the World Cup, rising prices have been a concern for residents and businesses in the world's fourth wealthiest country.
Inflationary pressures have affected some new businesses, with some delaying expansion until after the World Cup is over. A leading confectionery and restaurant business that has set up shop recently in Doha has postponed the opening of a new branch because of rising costs due to FIFA World Cup.
"We are doing good business and intend to open another branch as part of our expansion plans, but we will wait until the World Cup ends," a company employee told IANS on the condition of anonymity.
The Arab Monetary Fund said in a report released Thursday that it expects 4.3 per cent inflation in Qatar during the current year which will decline to 3.5 per cent next year.
Qatar has lined up several activities and entertainment options for fans during the World Cup. According to the tournament organising committee, the country-wide festival will include more than 90 special events set to take place on the sidelines of the tournament. The major events will feature match-viewing areas, music festivals, cultural displays and street performances.
The country's centrepiece entertainment offering during the FIFA World Cup will be the Corniche, which will have a carnival atmosphere along its 6km route, stretching from the Sheraton Hotel to the Museum of Islamic Art Park. It will feature roving performances, cultural activities, food and beverage stalls, and retail outlets. More than 120,000 people will be able to visit the Corniche at peak time.
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