Why the Qatar World Cup could be a success despite human rights criticism

Many of the 1 million people who were due to make the World Cup trip say they were impressed with the seemingly safe and welcoming environment provided by their Qatari hosts.

“It’s amazing, honestly, what an amazing job Qatar has done to organize this World Cup,” Elias Damouni said outside the Khalifa International Stadium, just outside Doha, for the States knockout game. United against the Netherlands on Saturday. Describing the country as “super safe, super fun, super accommodating, and the only thing I can think of saying is,” he stopped to cover his heart, “we really thank the Qataris.”

Another American, David Crabb, spent the day browsing Souq Waqif, a market in Doha. “I had no idea what it would be like here, but it was actually really hospitable,” he said. “There was a lot of fun to be had in every game.”

Of course, not everyone can enjoy such a carefree experience.

Same-sex relationships are illegal in Qatar and migrant workers have been mistreated, although recent reforms have been welcomed by the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency.

In a written statement, a Qatari government official said “all visitors – regardless of their origins or beliefs – were warmly welcomed to Qatar” and that “Qatar does not tolerate any discrimination against anyone”.

He said the World Cup had been a “catalyst for positive change in Qatar”, namely improving workers’ rights.

The preparation for this World Cup has been dominated by the debate on human rights in Qatar. But that calmed down once the tournament got underway, with many Western journalists appearing to be courted by the smooth running of the tournament and the entertaining football.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted: “Hats off to Qatar for putting on an incredible World Cup so far.”

For many in Qatar, the pre-tournament criticism is seen as an unfortunate distraction from what they see as the real issues.

“Everyone is a little upset and frustrated with Western media coverage,” said Antoniades of Georgetown University in Qatar.

“But everyone is proud of what the country has managed to do,” he said. “It brought people together, it brought together leaders who are trying to build things.”

He added: “We live in a very unstable world at the moment, and that’s exactly what should be the focus of the World Cup.”

Alexander Smith reported from London, Elizabeth Kuhr reported from Doha, Qatar.

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