By Arab News
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.”