Sun12172017

LAST_UPDATESun, 17 Dec 2017 10am

Gulf Blockade ‘Poses No Risk To Qatar World Cup'

The man in charge of Qatar's World Cup preparations has said that a regional blockade against the country poses "no risk" to the football tournament in 2022.

Qatar's only land border and its air and sea routes have been cut off for more than four months since Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates launched an economic boycott against Doha. The blockade has forced World Cup organisers to find alternative sources of materials to complete the eight venues that will host the tournament.

"We have come under criticism and attack over the years, but we have always faced our critics," Hassan al-Thawadi, secretary general of the Qatar World Cup supreme committee, told The Associated Press news agency on Friday.

Thawadi maintained that logistical obstacles are being overcome and building work is continuing with only "minimal" cost increases.

"Our projects are going ahead as scheduled. This (blockade) is no risk in relation to the hosting of the World Cup."

The diplomatic crisis stems from allegations Qatar supports "terrorist" groups in the region, charges denied by Doha.

When Qatar's sole land border with Saudi Arabia was closed and sea traffic cut off, World Cup organisers were forced to instigate their "Plan B." They express confidence FIFA is not exploring a "Plan B" of its own for an alternate 2022 host.

"Every project has contingency plans, and we have had contingency plans in place from the very start," Thawadi said in an interview during a visit to Britain's capital, London, to attend an exhibition by the Doha-based Aspire sports academy.

"Once the blockade came into play we contacted the main contractors; we put in place alternative supply chains, we sourced alternative materials from alternate suppliers. I'm very happy to say that our project scale is on time and there is no significant impact on our projects.

"As of today, we haven't seen a significant impact on the cost. There might have been some minimal increase in terms of establishing alternative supply chains, but these have been absorbed very, very quickly and been normalised as these supply chains have been put in place."

In an interview with Al Jazeera in August, Thawadi called the World Cup "the perfect tool to genuinely fight and stop the supply of terrorists" to armed groups.

"The World Cup is the quintessential opportunity, the quintessential platform for the region," he told Talk To Al Jazeera, the Doha-based network's flagship interview programme.

"The World Cup has the ability to be an economic engine, or at least contribute to an economic engine through a sports-integrated economy. It has the opportunity to support the skills development and … human capacity development for the youth of the region," he said.

The fact that Qatar 2022 will be the first World Cup in the Middle East and the Arab World will allow the region "to showcase itself to the outside world; showcase our richness in culture, our richness in heritage, our sense of humour", added Thawadi.

"A lot of people are actually not aware that we have a fantastic sense of humour ... In a time of divisiveness ... we need every opportunity to celebrate our differences and promote our common humanity."

-Al Jazeera