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Friday, December 2, 2022

FIFA’s Top Officials, an Unlikely Group, Rush to Book World Cup Hotel Rooms

In Qatar’s master plan to host the 2022 World Cup, five-star hotels played a prominent role. In the more than a decade since the tiny Gulf country was awarded the hosting rights to men’s soccer’s biggest championship, the city’s high-rise towers have grown at an astonishing rate, and so have the number of five-star hotels.

This year, in a mad dash to get ready for the tournament that starts on Sunday, that frenzy has only become worse as everyone scrambles to catch up. However, when guests began to arrive, it became abundantly evident that Qatar was not nearly prepared for at least one set of its most demanding visitors.

The bad news was provided by local authorities last week, just a few days before the most senior executives of FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, were ready to travel into Doha for discussions ahead of a World Cup that has been in the works for 12 years: The five-star hotel that was supposed to host FIFA’s leadership would not be prepared for them since this group is notorious for its love of benefits, its strong hunger for life’s better things, and its six-figure salary.

The International Football Federation (FIFA) refused to comment on the change in plans, stating that it was an issue for Qatar’s Supreme Body, which is the local organising committee for the World Cup. In addition, two high-ranking executives from the impacted organisation said that they were informed that the disruption they were experiencing would only be temporary: Their first hotel, which is a beautiful curving waterfront tower with interiors inspired by luxury superyachts and what has been hailed as the world’s biggest chandelier, is expected to be completed very soon, maybe within the next few days.

Given the humiliating nature of the situation for both the organisation and its Qatari hosts, the officials refused to be named by name when asked about it in the media. A request for response was sent to the Supreme Committee, which did not answer. The Supreme Committee is responsible for the delivery of eight stadiums, dozens of other projects, and tens of thousands of more accommodations for visiting spectators, sponsors, and media.

Once FIFA has gotten itself organised, its higher-ups will become reacquainted with the FIFA Club, which is a swanky hangout that has been a mainstay during past editions of the World Cup. It offers an unending supply of delectable delicacies, complimentary beverages, and well-guarded seclusion.

In the interim, FIFA has been successful in securing a backup hotel. This hotel is a magnificent redoubt with breathtaking views over the Persian Gulf and a flotilla of wooden dhows, which are traditional Arab boats, docked immediately in front of the private beach of the hotel. On Tuesday, the hotel officially opened its doors, and its very first visitors were the executives from FIFA.

However, this was not the only sign of stress for Qatar’s plans to welcome the world to an event that has already cost the country more than $200 billion for preparations, facility improvements, and infrastructure upgrades. The problems with the hotels for FIFA’s elite class were just one example of this.

The video of the encounter rapidly gained widespread attention and seemed to show a security officer waiving at the camera when a reporter alerted them that they were live on air. Rasmus Tantholdt, the Danish journalist whose transmission was cut off, confronted an officer in charge of security with the following question: “You brought the entire world here.” Why aren’t we able to make a film?

Officials from Qatar have referred to the situation as an accident, and they have said that the team was permitted to continue recording when their credentials were validated. To assist in maintaining order during the event, which is anticipated to draw one million spectators, Qatar has contracted the services of thousands of private security personnel from throughout the globe.

In a nation where the distribution of alcoholic beverages is carefully regulated, the fact that frequent adjustments have been made to the plans for the distribution of beer is another indication that the situation is still in a state of flux. On Saturday, FIFA authorities were put in an embarrassing position as a result of an article that appeared in The New York Times about the rapid evacuation of beer tents at the eight tournament grounds. People who were engaged in the modification of plans say that shifting the beer to more discrete areas was part of an attempt to avoid upsetting the local populace in a mostly Muslim nation, and that this was one of the reasons why the plans were changed.

This fan zone, known as Al Bidda Park, was supposed to serve as a focal point for tourists from other countries, but it looked to still be under construction. On Thursday, construction workers wearing blue coveralls were busy laying paving stones, and metal barricades were still separating the two halves of the property.

Meanwhile, inside FIFA’s makeshift hotel, officials watched as employees struggled to move a six-foot placard painted with one of the tournament’s catchphrases through the elaborate, Arabesque doors of the structure. The placard was decorated with one of the tournament’s catchphrases. The sign said, “Expect Amazing,” so that’s what I did.

Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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