Day before FIFA World Cup, Qatar faces overcrowding troubles

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DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Authorities turned away hundreds of followers Saturday night time from a live performance celebrating the World Cup starting the following day in Qatar, revealing the challenges forward for Doha because it tries to handle crowds in FIFA’s most-compact match ever.

Disenchanted followers took being turned away largely in stride. Exterior the venue, Qatari police, safety guards and others guided the hundreds away with big foam fingers, bullhorns and blinking visitors management wands.

However the overflowing live performance comes earlier than the remainder of the 1.2 million followers anticipated on the match arrive in this tiny nation on the Arabian Peninsula.

And with Qatar deciding only Friday to ban beer sales from tournament stadiums, fan zones just like the one on the corniche internet hosting the live performance would be the solely FIFA-associated space serving pints — which means extra followers may wind up there.

“We all know that what the police say right here goes,” stated a 30-year-old trucker from Mumbai, who declined to offer his identify for concern of reprisals. He and his mates had bought a uncommon time off from Hamad Port to stroll 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) to the fan zone earlier than being turned away.

“We’re unhappy to go away as a result of it’s too early,” he added. “There’s nothing we are able to do.”

Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Supply and Legacy, which oversees the World Cup, stated in an announcement to The Related Press it was “completely delighted” with the opening of the Fan Zone.

“The occasion reached its capability of 40,000 individuals, … an indication of its success and recognition,” the committee stated.

Qatar, dwelling to three million individuals, will see its population swell as the tournament begins. It has spent over $200 billion for enhancements throughout this energy-rich nation barely bigger than Jamaica.

That features a huge new underground metro system that may whisk followers from the airport to matches. It has even closed faculties for the month and urged residents to make money working from home.

However AP journalists have seen pinch factors the place an amazing variety of individuals could be bunched collectively even earlier than the match begins.

In Doha’s Souq Waqif, a significant vacationer vacation spot, a walkway between outside eating places shortly stuffed shoulder to shoulder Friday night time. Its close by metro station noticed lengthy traces, with some pushing and shoving between orderlies and people taking the practice.

People dance at the Souq Waqif marketplace ahead of the FIFA World Cup
Folks dance on the Souq Waqif market forward of the FIFA World Cup in Doha, Qatar on Nov. 19, 2022.Chandan Khanna / AFP through Getty Photos

Saturday night time, nonetheless, began a lot smoother as Friday is the necessary time off for all employees within the nation. Fewer individuals stolled the corniche as an enormous fireworks present all of a sudden went off, illuminating Doha’s glittering skyline to awed passersby.

Simply after 8 p.m., nonetheless, crowds thronged the Fan Zone, hoping to attend a live performance that includes Lebanese singer Myriam Fares and Colombian singer Maluma. However as lots of squeezed inside a holding pen, hundreds extra waited exterior the venue.

At one exit, the gang tried to argue its means inside, with a number of spectators slipping previous guards. At an entrance, one safety guard with a bullhorn pleaded with the gang: “In your security, please return!”

AP journalists noticed police on horseback at one level within the fan holding space, in addition to one armored police car parked exterior close by.

Nonetheless, some guests stayed and waited, hoping for an opportunity to get in, like Ayman Awad, a geologist who flew to Qatar on Saturday from Sudan.

“I received’t surrender,” Awad stated. “I hope it doesn’t keep this crowded.”

Many international followers, conscious of Qatar’s restrictions on free speech, had been cautious of criticizing the host nation as they waited. A bunch of Saudi vacationers who expressed disappointment on the scenario to an AP journalist later retracted their quotes for concern of wading into “politics.”

The Fan Zone at Al Bidda Park plans different main live shows as effectively throughout the match. However it has taken on new prominence after Friday’s determination to ban alcohol gross sales at stadiums: It will likely be one of many few locations exterior of lodge bars and personal residences the place followers can have a drink whereas partying in this conservative Islamic nation.

On Saturday night time, a fast set of calls to a number of bars in Doha’s West Bay, an space filled with high-end inns, discovered that each one had been absolutely booked the night time earlier than the match because the Fan Zone was shut.

But the actual take a look at will start Sunday, as Ecuador faces Qatar within the opening match and the group stage follows behind — with the crowds to return.

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