Qatar World Cup organizers fear coronavirus impact on 2022 football tournament

Above, inside Qatar’s new Al-Bayt Stadium in Doha, which will host matches of the FIFA football World Cup 2022, in this December 17, 2019 photo. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 21 May 2020

Qatar World Cup organizers fear coronavirus impact on 2022 football tournament

  • Many countries have been reporting a slowdown in their economies

DUBAI: 2022 FIFA World Cup organizers are apprehensive football fans will not travel to Doha to watch games if the coronavirus pandemic continues to hold the global economy in dire straits.

Many countries have been reporting a slowdown in their economies while others are expected to go into historically deep recessions as the coronavirus pandemic, which affected 5 million people globally, shuttered businesses and caused industries to stall.

Major economies like the US have reported that retail sales fell a record 19 percent in April, and was a key reason why the American economy was contracting.

Britain’s economy shrank by a record 5.8 percent in March from February as the coronavirus crisis escalated, while its gross domestic product for the first three months of contracted by 2.0 percent from the fourth quarter of last year. British economic output is set to crash 14 percent this year owing to the coronavirus, the Bank of England earlier said.

Qatar has been promising that the World Cup would be affordable for fans, but has, itself, been affected by economic activity shutting down in so many countries.

The tiny Gulf nation still hopes six of its eight stadiums will be completed by the end of this year despite the COVID-19 disruption. But its effort to fast track the construction of these venues has also raised criticisms over the conditions of migrant workers that Doha brought in.

One TV documentary has claimed at least 1,400 migrant workers from Nepal have died while working on the football stadiums due to construction site accidents and squalid living conditions.

The frenetic construction work for the 2022 FIFA World Cup is claiming around 110 lives every year, according to Nepali government figures.

The World Cup is scheduled to be played in November-December 2022, rather than its usual June-July slot, which may provide more time for the resumption of international travel but remains blurry considering the current global economic situation.

“By 2022 I’m optimistic that we would overcome this pandemic as a human race collectively,” World Cup organizing committee secretary general Hassan Al-Thawadi meanwhile said.

“It will be one of the early opportunities for all of us to celebrate together, to engage together, to bring people together.”

Lin Dan retirement ends era of ‘Chinese sports superstar’

Updated 08 July 2020

Lin Dan retirement ends era of ‘Chinese sports superstar’

  • The era of the superstar that once belonged to Chinese sports has faded

SHANGHAI: The retirement of two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan signals the end of a golden era of Chinese sporting superstars, state media said on Tuesday.

Arguably the greatest badminton player of all time, the 36-year-old said on Saturday that he was bringing the curtain down on a career that also brought five world titles.

NBA All-Star Yao Ming, Olympic gold-medal hurdler Liu Xiang and two-time tennis Grand Slam champion Li Na have all retired in the last decade.

“With the ‘Super Dan’ curtain call, people cannot help but sigh,” Xinhua news agency said.

“The era of the superstar that once belonged to Chinese sports has faded.

“When will the next Lin Dan appear? Or when will the next Yao Ming, Liu Xiang and Li Na appear?

“Where is the next Chinese sports superstar who will create a collective memory for us?”

The quartet were not just world leaders in their sport and popular in China, but also had “considerable influence in the international arena and became a window for the world to understand China,” Xinhua said.

Of prominent Chinese athletes left, women’s volleyball player Zhu Ting has the potential to rise to superstar level, Xinhua said, while disgraced swimmer Sun Yang “enjoys high popularity (in China), but unfortunately he is banned.” 

The 28-year-old is appealing against an 8-year ban for refusing to give a doping sample. The three-time Olympic freestyle champion’s career will effectively be over if he loses his appeal at the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

China has world champions in other sports, and finished third behind the US and Britain in the medal table at the Rio 2016 Olympics, but they are not generally well-known even inside the country, Xinhua said.

Table tennis player Zhang Jike, another three-time Olympic gold medalist, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Lin, said the Oriental Sports Daily.

But at 32 his best days are behind him and as far back as 2016 he signaled his intention to retire, before having a change of heart.

“When will the next Lin Dan and China’s next sports superstar appear again?” asked the newspaper.

“This question may not be answered in a short space of time.”