FIFA World Cup: Authorities face overcrowding issues ahead of opening game – News

Fans hoping to catch a concert featuring Lebanese singer Myriam Fares and Colombian singer Maluma were turned away due to the packed house



PA

By PA

Published: Sun Nov 20, 2022 12:29 AM

Authorities turned away thousands of fans on Saturday night from a concert celebrating the World Cup starting the next day in Qatar, revealing the challenges ahead for Doha as it tries to manage crowds in Fifa’s most compact tournament .

Disappointed fans were largely turned away in the aftermath. Outside the site, Qatari police, security guards and others guided the thousands with giant foam fingers, megaphones and flashing traffic control wands.

But the packed concert comes before the rest of the 1.2 million fans expected at the tournament arrive in Qatar.

A 30-year-old Mumbai trucker and his friends had a rare day off from Hamad Port to walk 6 kilometers to a fan zone before being turned away.

“We are sad to leave because it is too early,” he added. “We can not do anything.”

Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which oversees the World Cup, did not immediately respond to questions about the fan zone pushing back crowds on Saturday night.

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PA

Qatar has spent over $200 billion on improvements across the country. This includes an extensive new underground metro system that can take fans from the airport to matches. He even closed schools for the month and urged residents to work from home.

But Associated Press reporters have seen pinch points where overwhelming numbers of people can be huddled together before the tournament even begins.

In Doha’s Souq Waqif, a major tourist destination, a walkway between outdoor restaurants quickly filled up side by side on Friday night. Its nearby metro station saw long queues, with jostling between caregivers and those taking the train.

Saturday night, however, started much easier as Friday is the mandatory day off for all workers in the country. Fewer people lined the corniche as a huge fireworks display suddenly went off, illuminating Doha’s shimmering skyline for amazed passers-by.

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PA

Just after 8 p.m., however, crowds thronged the Fan Zone, hoping to catch a concert featuring Lebanese singer Myriam Fares and Colombian singer Maluma. But as hundreds of people crowded into an enclosure, thousands more waited outside the hall.

At one exit, the crowd tried to force their way inside, with a few onlookers slipping past the guards. At one entrance, a security guard with a megaphone pleaded with the crowd, “For your safety, please go back!”

Still, some stayed and waited, hoping for a chance to get in, like Ayman Awad, a geologist who flew to Qatar on Saturday from Sudan.

“I won’t give up,” Awad said. “Hopefully it won’t stay so crowded.”

The Al Bidda Park Fan Zone is also planning other major concerts during the tournament.

On Saturday evening, a series of quick calls to several outlets in Doha’s West Bay, an area full of high-end hotels, revealed that all were full the day before the tournament because the Fan Zone was closed.

Still, the real test will begin on Sunday, when Ecuador take on Qatar in the opener and the group stage follows – with the crowds to come.

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