Tiny, gas-rich Qatar, pushing ahead with its sporting ambitions, has completed preparations for hosting the 2015 men’s world championship which opens in Doha on Thursday, organisers said.
“The championship will present a big challenge and Qatar is completely ready” to host the tournament, said Qatar 2015 organising committee director general Thani al-Kuwari.
“The committee has completed 99 percent of preparations and only some minor details remain,” he told AFP, three days before the start of the tournament.
The opening ceremony will take place in Lusail Hall, a stadium with a seating capacity for 15,000 spectators, while the final games, scheduled to take place on February 1, will be held in two other stadiums — Al-Sadd Club (7,000 spectators) and Duhail (4,000 spectators).
Teams from 24 countries will participate in the championship and the first match on Thursday will take place between Qatar and Brazil.
The opening ceremony will bring together 24 artists from different countries and will focus on the theme of “childhood.”
The cup, made of pure gold, will be offered by Qatar, said Kuwari.
Kuwari also stressed that building of the stadiums went smoothly without causing fatalities in the ranks of thousands of foreign workers, most of them Asian, who built these facilities.
Qatar has come under the media microscope since winning the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with doubts thrown up over corruption, its human rights record and treatment of its massive foreign workforce.
But the gas-rich state was cleared by FIFA of corruption in November, world football’s governing body ruling out a re-vote for the tournament despite widespread allegations of wrongdoing.
“No fatalities have occurred at our (construction) sites, said Kuwari, adding that the Lusail Hall alone took 31 million working hours, starting from December 2012, to build with 26,000 workers on the site per day, working in two shifts.
Confident on the success of the championship, Kuwari said that nearly all tickets have been sold.
Handball is not as popular as football in Qatar, but organisers are counting on the foreign communities, which make up a major part of Qatar’s population, to fill the stadiums.
According to the organising committee chief, around 7,000 handball fans have arrived from abroad to attend the championship and the number is expected to rise.
Qatar, which holds the world’s third-largest gas reserves, sees a new success in its hosting of the handball championship.
Since successfully staging the 2006 Asian Games, Doha has fought hard to become a world-renowned sports event city.
It held the 2010 World Indoor Athletics Championships, and for several seasons the opening meet of the Diamond League, in May last year.
Doha was named in November as host of the 2019 Athletics World Championships.
It hosted the World Swimming Championship in December and will host the 2016 UCI Road World Championship.