Controlling hundreds of thousands of football fans in Qatar’s capital will be the biggest security challenge of World Cup 2022, FIFA told police chiefs from competing nations on Sunday.
Unlike previous World Cups, where only two teams and their supporters would generally converge on one city at any given time, all the games will take place in and around Doha.
The most geographically compact World Cup therefore represents the tournament’s biggest “challenge”, FIFA security director Helmut Spahn told a security conference for the tournament in Doha.
Qatar has predicted that 1.4 million people will visit during the 28 day tournament, that starts November 21, with “approximately 350,000” attendees in Doha “at the same time”, Spahn noted, speaking on the sidelines of the conference.
“You have to manage that,” he said. “But we can create history and I am pretty sure that we will manage it.”
Major General Abdulaziz Al-Ansari, head of Qatar’s World Cup security operation, also acknowledged that the numbers were the main concern.
“But we are very much confident that we have reviewed this over and over again,” Ansari said. “Of course there are going to be challenges, but the challenge is going to be part of the enjoyment.”
The Gulf state’s police are preparing an intricate system of road closures and extra public transport to move rival groups of football fans around.
The gas-rich nation has spent billions of dollars on seven new stadiums and refurbishing an eighth for the World Cup.
The longest distance between any of the two stadiums is about 70 kilometres (45 miles).
Ansari said police delegations from competing nations would inspect the World Cup stadiums and review transport in Doha over the next two days.
Spahn claimed the threat from “terrorism” had eased since Germany 2006, South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018.
In the past “we had terrorist attack threats prior to a World Cup, we had strikes of private security and police, we had problems sometimes with infrastructure at stadiums not being ready. This is not the case here,” Spahn said.
The threat “is low and under control here in Qatar.”
European fans’ groups have been seeking clarity on Qatar’s tournament policy on alcohol consumption, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights.
Ansari said a guide for fans going to Qatar would be released next month.
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