Day Before FIFA World Cup, Qatar Faces Overcrowding Troubles

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Authorities turned away hundreds of followers Saturday evening from a live performance celebrating the World Cup starting the subsequent 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 on this tiny nation on the Arabian Peninsula.

And with Qatar deciding solely Friday to ban beer gross sales from match 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 might wind up there.

“We know that what the police say here goes,” mentioned a 30-year-old trucker from Mumbai, who declined to present his title for worry of reprisals. He and his pals had received 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 sad to leave because it’s too early,” he added. “There’s nothing we can do.”

On this picture from video, Qatari police stand by on horseback as different safety officers attempt to management a crowd at a FIFA Fan Zone forward of the World Cup in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Authorities turned away hundreds of followers Saturday evening from a live performance celebrating the World Cup starting the subsequent day in Qatar, revealing the challenges forward for Doha because it tries to handle crowds in FIFA’s most-compact match ever. (AP Photograph/Srdjan Nedeljkovic)

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

“The event reached its capacity of 40,000 people, … a sign of its success and popularity,” the committee mentioned.

Qatar, house to three million folks, will see its inhabitants swell because the match 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 do business from home.

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

In Doha’s Souq Waqif, a significant vacationer vacation spot, a walkway between out of doors eating places rapidly crammed shoulder to shoulder Friday evening. Its close by metro station noticed lengthy strains, with some pushing and shoving between orderlies and people taking the practice.

Fans crowd the FIFA Fan Festival site in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Authorities turned away thousands of fans Saturday night from a concert celebrating the World Cup beginning the next day in Qatar, showing the challenges ahead for Doha as it tries to manage crowds in FIFA's most-compact tournament ever. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
Followers crowd the FIFA Fan Pageant website in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Authorities turned away hundreds of followers Saturday evening from a live performance celebrating the World Cup starting the subsequent day in Qatar, displaying the challenges forward for Doha because it tries to handle crowds in FIFA’s most-compact match ever. (AP Photograph/Jon Gambrell)

Saturday evening, nevertheless, began a lot smoother as Friday is the obligatory time off for all employees within the nation. Fewer folks stolled the corniche as a large fireworks present immediately went off, illuminating Doha’s glittering skyline to awed passersby.

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

At one exit, the group tried to argue its method inside, with a number of spectators slipping previous guards. At an entrance, one safety guard with a bullhorn pleaded with the group: “For your safety, please go back!”

AP journalists noticed police on horseback at one level within the fan holding space, in addition to one armored police automobile parked exterior close by. Some attendees jumped over boundaries and Qatari police at one level held again the group.

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 won’t give up,” Awad mentioned. “I hope it doesn’t stay this crowded.”

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

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

On Saturday evening, a fast set of calls to a number of bars in Doha’s West Bay, an space stuffed with high-end motels, discovered that every one had been totally booked the evening earlier than the match because the Fan Zone was shut.

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