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 By PA Sport

'Business as usual' for Qatar World Cup organisers despite crisis

The diplomatic crisis that has left Qatar at odds with its Gulf neighbours has had "no impact'' on the country's preparations for the 2022 World Cup, according to a source close to the organisers.

In a coordinated move last week, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties with the small but rich peninsula, denying it access to their airspace and closing Qatar's only land border with Saudi Arabia.

Long annoyed by Qatar's oil-and-gas wealth and ambitions to play a much bigger role on the world stage, the county's regional rivals have also accused it of funding terrorism abroad.

This unprecedented action, coupled with other economic and travel sanctions, has provoked global concerns about security in the Middle East but also fears for Qatar's various development projects.

And there is no bigger development-related project in Qatar right now than the 2022 World Cup, which it controversially won the right to host in 2010.

With air travel restricted and no land route to the south, many observers have questioned how long the crisis can continue before Qatar's construction of new stadiums, training bases and transport infrastructure is seriously affected.

Speaking to Press Association Sport from Doha, a source close to the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said it was "business as usual'' for the organisers.

"Construction is ongoing and we have just opened the first of our eight proposed stadiums for 2022 -- the redeveloped Khalifa International. That was a huge moment for the committee,'' he said.

Qatar's World Cup preparations have felt no impact from the country's ongoing diplomatic crisis.

"We have regular updates from all the contractors and they are saying there has been no impact from the political situation so far.

"As I understand it, their supply chains are OK for the moment and, whether it is a case of plan B or plan C, they are not predicting any problems for the foreseeable future.

"The change here over the last five years has been phenomenal and be it the airport expansion, new metro and expressways or the work on the port, everything is still on track.''

When the crisis erupted, FIFA issued a short statement to say it is in "regular contact'' with the organising committee, before FIFA president Gianni Infantino told two Swiss newspapers last weekend he did not believe Qatar's hosting of the World Cup was in danger, as it was still five years away.

The source in Doha said FIFA was in "constant dialogue'' with the organisers, as well as speaking regularly to the "highest levels of government''.

World football's governing body is also still considering Qatar's proposal to stage the World Cup in only eight venues.

Its original bid promised 12 stadiums, but that plan has gradually been reduced, along with the budget, as there are concerns about the legacy costs of having so many world-class sports venues in a country of just 2.7 million people, the majority of whom are foreign nationals involved in the country's rapid development.

The 40,000-seat stadium at Al-Wakrah is the first of seven entirely new venues scheduled to be completed next year, with the 60,000-seat Al Bayt Stadium next to be finished. Qatar hopes to have all of its stadiums finished by 2020.

In fact, the first impact of the diplomatic crisis is more likely to be felt in one of the numerous outreach projects Qatar is funding in the region, such as the ongoing football tournaments to mark Ramadan.

There is no doubt, however, that the pressure on the organising committee will only mount if the crisis continues, particularly if the United States continues its apparent support for the view that Qatar has been unsettling the region by funding Islamist groups.

Diplomatic isolation, as well as the ongoing scrutiny of the country's poor record on labour rights and workers' safety, could still lead to serious calls for the World Cup to be moved to a less contentious and safer host.


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