HomeWorld NewsQatar battles overcrowding at fan zone the day before FIFA World Cup...

Qatar battles overcrowding at fan zone the day before FIFA World Cup kicks off

Authorities turned away 1000’s of followers on 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 event ever.

Disappointed followers took being turned away largely in stride. Outside the venue, Qatari police, safety guards and others guided the 1000’s away with big foam fingers, bullhorns and blinking site visitors management wands.

But the overflowing live performance comes before the remainder of the 1.2 million followers anticipated at the soccer event arrive on this tiny nation on the Arabian Peninsula.

And with Qatar deciding solely Friday to ban beer gross sales from event stadiums, fan zones like the one on the seaside corniche internet hosting the live performance might be the solely FIFA-associated space serving pints — which means extra followers may wind up there.

“We know that what the police say right here goes,” mentioned a 30-year-old trucker from Mumbai, who declined to provide his identify for worry of reprisals. He and his mates had bought a uncommon day off from Hamad Port to stroll six kilometres to the fan zone before being turned away.

Police stand by on horseback as different safety officers attempt to management a crowd at a FIFA fan zone on Saturday. (Srdjan Nedeljkovic/The Associated Press)

“We’re unhappy to depart as a result of it is too early,” he mentioned. “There’s nothing we will do.”

Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which oversees the World Cup, didn’t instantly reply to questions on the fan zone turning away crowds Saturday evening.

Qatar, dwelling to 3 million folks, will see its inhabitants swell as the event begins. It has spent greater than $200 billion US 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 earn a living from home.

A big crowd is seen at the FIFA fan zone at Doha’s Al Bidda Park on Saturday. (Molly Darlington/Reuters)

But Associated Press journalists have seen pinch factors the place an amazing variety of folks may be bunched collectively even before the event begins.

In Doha’s Souq Waqif, a serious vacationer vacation spot, a walkway between outside eating places shortly crammed shoulder to shoulder on Friday evening. Its close by metro station noticed lengthy traces, with some folks pushing and shoving between orderlies and people taking the practice.

Saturday evening, nevertheless, began a lot smoother; Friday is the necessary day off for all staff in the nation. Fewer folks strolled the corniche as an enormous fireworks present all of a sudden went off, illuminating Doha’s glittering skyline to awed passersby.

Fans watch a drone show and fireworks over Doha on Saturday. (Jon Gambrell/The Associated Press)

Just 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. As a whole bunch squeezed inside a holding pen, 1000’s extra waited exterior the venue.

At one exit, the crowd tried to argue its manner inside, with just a few spectators slipping previous guards. At an entrance, one safety guard with a bullhorn pleaded with the crowd: “For your security, please return!”

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

Fans are seen throughout a live performance in Al Bidda Park on Saturday. (Molly Darlington/Reuters)

“I will not surrender,” Awad mentioned. “I hope it does not keep this crowded.”

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

The fan zone at Al Bidda Park has plans different main concert events throughout the event. But it has taken on new prominence after Friday’s resolution to ban alcohol gross sales at stadiums: It might be one in all the few locations exterior of lodge bars and personal residences the place followers can have a drink whereas partying on this conservative Islamic nation.

PHOTOS | Soccer followers take pleasure in beer at fan zone: 

On Saturday evening, a fast set of calls to a number of bars in Doha’s West Bay, an space filled with high-end lodges, discovered that every one have been totally booked the evening before the event as the fan zone was shut.

Yet the actual check will start on Sunday, as Ecuador faces Qatar in the opening match and the group stage follows behind — with the crowds to come back.

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