LONDON - The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup has insisted that the bid was completely clean – despite the widespread corruption at the sport’s world governing body FIFA during the bidding process in 2010.
Qatar is spending around $10 billion on new stadiums and up to $200 billion on improving infrastructure ahead of the 2022 World Cup, making it the most expensive tournament ever.
In a speech at London’s Chatham House Thursday, the Secretary-General of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, Hassan Al-Thawadi, said the cost would be worthwhile.
“The passion for football runs through the veins of our society. And a desire to demonstrate to the rest of the world that our region could be, and deserves to be, in the headlines for reasons other than conflict and strife,” he said.
WATCH: Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption
The scandals that have engulfed football’s World governing body FIFA led to the resignation and prosecution of many of the officials who voted for Qatar’s bid.
FIFA appointed American lawyer Michael Garcia to investigate the allegations in 2012. He described ‘serious and wide-ranging issues with the bidding and selection process,’ before quitting to protest FIFA’s handling of his report in 2014.
A summary of the investigation led by a German judge largely cleared Qatar of any wrongdoing. Al-Thawadi denied there was any corruption involved in Qatar’s winning bid.
“We stuck to the rules. And more importantly when the investigation happened with Michael Garcia after the bid, we cooperated fully out of a sense of vindication and out of a sense of confidence at the cleanliness of our bid,” said Al-Thawadi.
Human rights groups have repeatedly accused Qatar of abusing the rights of the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers building the World Cup venues.
Qatar’s so-called ‘kafala’ or sponsorship system ties the legal status of migrant workers to their employer. Al-Thawadi insisted the government is committed to reforming workers’ rights.
“Of most importance is the new law that was signed by His Highness the Emir in October 2015, abolishing the ‘kafala’ system and replacing it with a contractual agreement between employer and employee,” he said.
Amnesty International’s James Lynch, who listened to the speech, said the assurances were not convincing.
“Where we disagree is about the speed of reform. He says that the new sponsorship law reform is a really big deal that will change the lives of workers. We are much more skeptical about that. We think that it is the kafala system in all but name, and it is adjusted rather than really reformed,” Lynch told VOA.
Human rights groups are also calling for an investigation into the high number of heart attacks among some migrant workers – which they believe could be related to the extreme heat.