World Cup: A look at Qatar’s fan accommodation
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The camp is close to Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, where England and Wales will play next Tuesday. The pictures tell a story of what is an underwhelming effort on the part of the Qatari hosts to provide a positive and memorable fan experience. The experience will be memorable. But not for the right reasons.
On the long drive to Rawdat Al Jahhaniya, it was hard not to feel like you were travelling to the end of the Earth. There were none of the huge skyscrapers and sprawling malls that Doha is famed for. Nor even any houses in sight.
It was like entering a deserted land, that had been abandoned before it was finished, with the rubble, lorries and construction sites left behind the only traces of life which remained.
It was not quite the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max, but it looked a lot more like that than a vibrant fan zone fit for a 21st-century international sporting event.
Almost as soon as I arrived at the fan village, I found myself turned away and asked to leave by security if I did not have a reservation.
This seemed no way to treat people – to treat fans – who want an enjoyable experience. Indeed, it was more like what you would expect in a prison camp than from a fan accommodation site.
It is no surprise to me that fans have already expressed the opinion that this is not at all what they expected, describing it as “hell,” “a nightmare,” and “unbearable”.
Some have even gone as far as comparing it to the Fyre Festival scam, where revellers paid hundreds of dollars for luxury accommodation and gourmet food, only to find themselves eating pre-packaged sandwiches in emergency tents.
An Iran supporter insists his room is like a “tin can” having flown in to support his country who face England in their Group B opener on Monday.
Milad Mahmooditar, 32, said: “I am six feet tall and my bed is too small.
“There is no room to move and the air-conditioning unit makes so much noise that you cannot sleep. The bathroom isn’t much of a bathroom and you can hardly move without falling over the small table or kicking the bed.
“I have paid around $200 for each night and I know that for $100 I can get a five-star hotel with full board.
“This is not the way to treat visitors to any country. We have paid so much money to get here. I’m a businessman, but I’m not rich.
“I’ve spent a lot of money to come here. I expect to be treated much better than this. I am sorry about this and I am angry. Maybe it’s okay for the Qatari people who are rich and live in luxury houses for. Me, this is not okay.”
Fans have already blasted the site, which costs around £185 per night, as “ridiculous”.
Around 1.2 million visitors are expected in Qatar as a result of the World Cup which has led to a rush for new accommodations to be built to house fans.
As of March this year, around 80 percent of the country’s 30,000 hotel rooms had been booked by FIFA for teams, officials and sponsors.
The result? Workers are still racing to get venues ready – and fans are being treated like cattle.
The Fyre Festival was ultimately cancelled, with some of those behind it facing criminal charges. The Qatar World Cup is not going to be cancelled.
Nor is it likely that anyone in Qatar or at FIFA will ever face fraud charges. But serious questions remain.
Did the Qatari authorities really think that this standard was acceptable? How will this influence perceptions of Qatar going forward?
The big issues regarding human rights can be explained away due to cultural and political differences. But basic hospitality should be universal.
It was astonishing to see that Qatar has not prioritised the fans, who are the faces of the World Cup and who the event is in fact really about.
The campsite was far away from all the main attractions in Doha and felt like a dead space. It was a long drive with no visible pedestrians.
It looked miserable and the fans arriving looked miserable, too.
If their teams don’t deliver on the pitch, it is hard not to think many of those who have made the journey out to the Gulf state will not have the consolation of enjoyable accommodation, either.
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