Beer-drinking will be “business as usual” at the Qatar World Cup, the tournament’s chief insisted Thursday, despite severely restricted alcohol sales in the Muslim Gulf state.
Speaking 73 days from the first World Cup kicks off in an Arab nation, chief executive Nasser al-Khater said there was a “misconception” about alcohol sales, calling it one of the “unfair” criticisms faced by Qatar.
The price of accommodation and availability of beer have been among the main concerns raised by fans.
“Very simply put, we always stated that the sale of alcohol is available here in Qatar. We also said that during the World Cup we will make it available in specific zones for the fans,” Khater said.
“I think that there is a misconception regarding the sale of alcohol in the stadiums,” he said.
“We are working as any other World Cup where this is something typical and usual, and it is no different than any other World Cup.”
While Qatar is not dry, like fellow Gulf states Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, alcohol can only be bought by residents in one special government store and about 35 hotel bars and restaurants.
Drinking in public is normally illegal.
But for the World Cup, beer will also be sold at special zones around the eight tournament stadiums before and after games, in a FIFA fan zone and some specially-designated areas.
Many countries have restrictions on beer sales at sporting events. At English Premier League games, fans are not allowed to drink within sight of the pitch.
– Security silence –
Khater said that Qatar, which has spent tens of billions of dollars on new stadiums and related infrastructure over the past decade, wanted a “family-oriented World Cup” which is why beer would not be widely available.
But away from the stadiums in the hotels and bars of Doha, it would be “business as usual” for drinkers, he declared.
Qatar is expecting more than one million fans for the World Cup, which runs from November 20 to December 18.
After having stipulated that only fans with tickets would be allowed into the country during the tournament, they now say that each registered ticket holder can bring in three people.
In response to fears raised about LGBTQ rights, the Gulf state’s leaders have said all fans will be “welcome”.
The organisers refused to say, however, what sanctions would be imposed for violence or drunkenness in the street.
They also refused to outline which countries are sending police or security forces for the World Cup.
So far, some 3,250 police from Turkey are the only contingent whose deployment has been confirmed.
Security accords have been signed though with France, Britain, Italy and NATO.
Khater said all stadiums and infrastructure were now ready and that “aesthetic” work to roads was being completed as “the icing on the cake”.