A senior official responsible for organising the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar said that the event will attract 1m international visitors to the Gulf state.
Speaking in Doha, secretary general of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee Hassan Al Thawadi also said that the country would not discriminate against any visitors.
If Al Thawadi’s forecast is correct, the figure of 1m represents more than three times as many as the 310,000 international visitors that FIFA said travelled to South Africa for the 2010 tournament, but less than the 2006 event in Germany which drew more than 2m.
It is predicted that Qatar will spend up to $200bn on new infrastructure in preparation for the prestigious soccer event, but the decision by FIFA to award the World Cup to the oil-rich Gulf state in 2010 has caused considerable controversy.
Chief among concerns has been summer temperatures in the country, which can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius, sparking fears for the health of participants and fans. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has already expressed a preference for moving the tournament to the winter, although such a move could lead to legal challenges from countries that made rival bids, as well as European domestic leagues that would likely suffer disruption.
Reports from organisations including Amnesty International, the International Trade Union Congress and Britain’s The Guardian newspaper have also highlighted the plight of Qatar’s migrant workers, many of whom are said to suffer human rights abuses under the country’s punitive employment sponsorship system.
The decision to host the World Cup in Qatar has also come under fire for the Gulf state’s stance on homosexuality, illegal in the country, and the potential presence of Israeli passport holders, who are officially prohibited from entering.