By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
During his embassy’s national day reception at the Four Seasons Hotel on Wednesday, Dec. 11, Qatari Ambassador to Mexico Mohammed Alkuwari spoke proudly of his country’s progress in preparing to host the 2022 World Cup, noting that eight of the 12 stadiums where the games will be held are already constructed.
“By the end of 2020, we will have all the stadiums ready, two years ahead of the soccer games,” Alkuwari told his guests, before inviting them to enjoy a lavish buffet luncheon.
Qatar, which will be the first Arab nation to host the games, has invested more than $45 billion in constructing an entire new city as the mega sports event’s main venue.
Alkuwari pointed out that, because of the massive construction project and complementary infrastructure communications, audiences will be able to attend more than one game a day, since none of the stadiums will be any further than 45 minutes away from any of the other stadiums.
But Qatar’s hosting of the games has not been without controversy.
In recent months, the Gulf state has come under mounting scrutiny for its treatment of migrant workers.
At least 12 migrant workers involved in the construction of the World Cup stadiums have died so far.
Also, there have been allegations — which Qatar adamantly denies — that Doha paid off FIFA authorities to win the right to host the games, beating out rivals Japan, South Korea, Australia and the United States, which it defeated in a final runoff vote.
He said that, in addition to being received in state-of-the-art sports venues, guests from around the world will be able to witness the country’s advances in culture, technology and education.
In an effort to reposition the Arab nation known for its breathtaking skyscrapers and modern architecture, the Qatari government has encouraged top universities from around the globe to open satellite branches in Doha.
Currently, Georgetown University, Northwestern University, Texas A&M, Virginia Commonwealth University, Carnegie Mellon University and Weill Cornell Medical College all have campuses in Qatar.
Alkuwari closed his speech by making reference to his country’s bilateral relations with Mexico.
He said that he expects combined two-way trade to amount to nearly $300 million this year, up from less than $90 in 2018.
After its independence from Great Britain in 1971, Qatar underwent a dramatic transformation from a poor British protectorate noted mainly for pearling into a rich state with significant oil and natural gas revenues.
But during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Qatari economy was crippled by a continuous siphoning off of petroleum revenues by the emir, who had ruled the country since 1972.
His son, Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, overthrew the father in a bloodless coup in 1995.
The more progressive Hamad oversaw the creation of the pan-Arab satellite news network Al-Jazeera and Qatar’s pursuit of a leadership role in mediating regional conflicts.
In the 2000s, Qatar resolved its longstanding border disputes with both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
As of 2007, oil and natural gas revenues had enabled Qatar to attain the highest per capita income in the world.
In mid-2013, Hamad transferred power to his 33 year-old son, Tamim bin Hamad in a peaceful abdication.
Tamim has prioritized improving the domestic welfare of Qataris, including establishing advanced healthcare and education systems and expanding the country’s infrastructure.