Qatar World Cup faces threat of construction delays, sponsorship worries

A major construction project for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Updated 15 July 2017

Qatar World Cup faces threat of construction delays, sponsorship worries

LONDON: Qatar’s preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup risk being ripped apart, as a boycott of the country hits construction projects and casts a cloud of uncertainty over the event for big-name sponsors.
Lawyers have warned that construction delays could produce a rash of litigation as contractors, clients and suppliers seek to dodge liability for cost and time overruns.
But the boycott of the country by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain represents just the latest hurdle for an event that has been dogged by controversy ever since Qatar won the bid to host it seven years ago.
The implications of the boycott are far-reaching, both diplomatically and for Qatar’s many projects under construction ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
More than half of Qatar’s raw materials for construction arrive by road, but the only road in is through Saudi Arabia, which is now closed.
This means supplies needed for eight stadiums and other associated infrastructure must come through the bottleneck of the recently completed Hamad Port.
“There’s concern that this may adversely impact the delivery of the 2022 World Cup facilities, not just stadiums but other elements needed to successfully host the event, including roads, utilities and hotels,” said Andrew MacCuish, a Dubai-based partner at Kennedys, the international law firm.
“It was always seen as a tight timetable, and it has just got tighter. At some point, there will be an inspection by FIFA, and if it determines that it’s not on track, there’s a risk that the 2022 World Cup will be moved elsewhere.”
Qatar plans to build eight world-class football venues, create 60,000 new hotel rooms and finish a metro system for Doha, at a combined cost of more than $150 billion, as it prepares to host the world’s biggest single-event sporting competition.
But to do that, it relies on an army of expatriate construction professionals who may be less willing to consider a move to the tiny state.
“First there’s the human factor, which means Qatar ceases to be as attractive a place as it may have been perceived in the past,” said MacCuish.
“People, especially those with families, will be looking at the impact on their lifestyles, for example, the ease of travel in and out of Qatar, which has become a bit more difficult. Professionals thinking about moving there, or indeed remaining, will be looking at these issues, as well as the quality of the work available under the boycott.”
But delivering billions of dollars’ worth of the physical infrastructure needed to host the event is only part of the challenge now facing Doha.
One of the biggest financial clouds hanging over the tournament relates to sponsorship and how potential sponsors perceive the current crisis and future risk.
“What the blockade may do is deter potential sponsors, which have been slow in coming forward for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and 2022,” said Steve Menary, a UK-based football author.
“Those sponsors that have emerged are predominantly from Russia or China, which wants to host the tournament sooner or later. China is heavily exposed economically in the region through its Belt and Road economic corridor, and even though Chinese spending on football is ballooning, taking out sponsorships for a Qatari World Cup being boycotted by China’s partners in the region is hard to imagine right now.
“There have been no more announcements on sponsors from FIFA since Vivo signed up in May, which was a month before the boycott started.”
Even before the current crisis, the 2022 World Cup had been marred by allegations of corruption.
The 434-page Garcia Report, which looked into the 2018 and 2022 bidding processes, carried no concrete evidence of bribes to secure Qatar’s hosting rights, but author Michael Garcia raised his concerns over ties between its government and the World Cup bidding committee.
The 2022 World Cup may be five years away, but the next 12 months will be critical for Qatar in ensuring projects remain on track and sponsors are kept reassured.

US, UK must support Kurds in Syria: British politicians

Updated 20 min 9 sec ago

US, UK must support Kurds in Syria: British politicians

  • Kurds of northern Syria face an “exponential threat” from Turkey while Western allies in the fight against Daesh remain silent — British MP
  • The UN estimates 137,000 people left Afrin leaving only about 150,000 in the district. Only the Turkish Red Crescent and Turkish relief organizations can operate there

LONDON: The Kurds of northern Syria face an “exponential threat” from Turkey while Western allies in the fight against Daesh remain “silent,” Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a member of Parliament for the UK opposition Labor Party, told Arab News.

Speaking after visiting the Kurdish region of northern Syria this month, he said Kurdish communities in the area “feel abandoned” by the West in a “moment of real need.”

“While we were there, a place we’d been the day before was shelled by Turkey, so these things do go on and they do affect day-to-day lives. People seem genuinely very afraid,” he said.

Traveling via Baghdad and Irbil, before being escorted across the Syrian border by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), his delegation, which undertook the visit independently of the Labor Party, witnessed the devastation wreaked by Daesh and Turkish rockets in Kobani and other cities.

The route opened up a few months ago, Russell-Moyle said, creating a “window of opportunity” to “talk to the Kurds about what they were facing” and to “give hope to people that are struggling and are doing an amazing job.” 

Describing the democratic, secular, feminist state being established in the Kurdish-controlled area of northern Syria as “impressive,” he said this is the “best” and “only” example of the kind in Syria and that Britain should be helping to rebuild it in the aftermath of the conflict. 

During a visit to Qamishli, Lord Glasman, a Labour peer who was part of the delegation, said: “We’re here for a long-term relationship with you, where we can support you against all the people who are trying to destroy your liberty.”

In March, the Turkish military overran the north Syrian city of Afrin following a bloody campaign to oust the YPG from the area. Dozens of Kurdish fighters lost their lives, including 26-year-old British national Anna Campbell, who'd been volunteering with the YPJ, the female arm of the YPG.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish president, has vowed to expand the offensive to other YPG-held areas, citing security concerns in response to US plans to help Kurdish militias create a 30,000-strong “border security force” to defend the Syrian-Turkish border against Daesh. 

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which it defines as a terrorist organization, following a three-decade battle for Kurdish independence on Turkish soil.

The UK and US, wary of upsetting an important NATO ally, remain reluctant to get involved. A statement released by the US State Department in March said it was “committed to our NATO ally Turkey” with its “legitimate security concerns,” sentiments reiterated by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who insisted: “Turkey has the right to want to keep its borders secure.”

Kurdish forces are “infuriated” by the response, feeling that they have been let down by their allies, commentators said. Kurdish fighters make up the majority of the US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting against Daesh.

Josh Walker, a British YPG fighter who has since returned to the UK, said: “Kurds have been seeing this as another chapter in their long history of betrayal by major powers; they are especially disappointed considering their major contribution to the near-defeat of ISIS, which was only prevented from being total defeat by Turkish intervention.”

Since the assault on Afrin, the YPG has redeployed hundreds of troops from the frontlines against Daesh to defend the city on the other side of Syria. Turkey’s “increasingly belligerent” position toward the Kurds has thrown up “contradictions” for UK and US foreign policy in Syria, said Robert Lowe, deputy director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economic and Political Sciences.

“Their overriding priority is to defeat ISIS (Daesh) and associated groups. That’s been hurt by the Turkish invasion and made their continuing operations to defeat ISIS, or clear out what’s left of them, more difficult because the Kurds have had to move resources.

“The US and the UK are only prepared to go so far in their criticism of Turkey,” he said. “They have urged restraint … but also haven’t been as critical as they might have been.”

Russell-Moyle said the UK needed to be “stepping up, not stepping away.” The recent decision taken by Theresa May, UK prime minister, to engage in US-orchestrated airstrikes targeting the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons facilities without parliamentary approval was a “very risky strategy,” he said. 

To bring an end to this conflict “we should be building up societies,” he said, and “supporting a civil population that will never allow it to happen again.”

In Rojava, and the cantons of Kobani, Cizre and Afrin, Kurdish communities have embarked on a political project to form the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, establishing a system of government based on democratic confederalism, ecology and gender equality. Councils set up by local people, have been established, based on equal representation of minority groups in the area.

Elif Gun, from the Kurdistan Students Union in the UK, described a “system of stateless democracy, working from bottom up, with power handed and divided.

“It is the only form of democracy and state that offers real change to the people and gives the power of decision making to the people.”