On Sunday, the FIFA 2022 World Cup began at Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar despite significant difficulties for the organizers.
In absence of direct shuttle transportation to the 60 000-seater stadium in the middle of the desert, the majority of the supporters of the Qatari national team decided to drive with their private luxury SUVs for the opening match of the tournament, where hosts were taking on Ecuador.
As a result, the huge number of vehicles caused chaos and long traffic jams on the roads leading to the arena.
Journalists, who had taken official shuttles from the press centre in downtown Doha 2 hours ahead of the opening ceremony, were hoping for a mere 1-hour ride to the arena, located 50 km to the north of the capital near the city of Al Khor, almost missed the ceremony in the traffic jam.
Fans were arriving last minute and did not have time to cheer for their teams properly around the stadium ahead of the match. The opening ceremony for the controversial Mundial, which many countries consider to be a mistake that Qatar is hosting the biggest football event in the world, was delayed as the tribunes seemed almost empty just 10 minutes before the start of the show.
Apart from the stadium problems, chaotic scenes also took place in the fan festival zone at Al Bidda Park in downtown Doha. Crowds of local football lovers could be seen storming the entrance to the facility, designed to take on a maximum of 40 000 supporters, to watch the World Cup opener between Qatar and Ecuador on a big-screen TV.
Riot police with batons and shields were deployed in the fan festival park to prevent people from entering the packed area. Many journalists were turned away from the fan festival on the excuse there was no more space inside for fans.
This year’s edition of the FIFA World Cup has become the first one held in the Middle East and the Arab World. The Qatar organizing committee is expecting to see around 1.5 million spectators in the country during the month-long competition that will continue until December 18.