Around 1.2 million tickets have been sold for this year’s World Cup in Qatar, organizers said on Wednesday, putting a sales figure for the first time. Chief organizer Hassan Al-Thawadi said there had been “record” demand for the November-December World Cup, the first to be held in the Middle East. “I think around 1.2 million tickets have already been purchased,” he told the Qatar Economic Forum.
“So people are actually buying and people are excited to come there. There’s no question about that.”
The figure was confirmed by Organizing Committee officials, who said there were around 40 million inquiries across the two online sales phases.
Two million tickets will be sold in total, and another million will be reserved for the world organization FIFA and sponsors.
The Qatari capital Doha, with a population of around 2.4 million, is bracing for the massive influx of visitors as hotel rooms are extremely scarce.
The 32-team tournament will take place in eight stadiums in and around the capital, which will put significant strain on infrastructure.
Qatar says there will be 130,000 rooms in hotels, apartments, cruise ships and desert camps, where there will be 1,000 traditional tents. He promised shared rooms for as low as $85 a night.
To limit the number of fans, only people with match tickets will be allowed into the small, gas-rich country during the World Cup, officials announced last month.
More than 160 return shuttles a day will bring fans from neighboring countries, easing pressure on accommodation, while capacity has been doubled at Doha’s two international airports.
But Al-Thawadi admitted it was “difficult” to control accommodation prices, which soar with demand.
“(We want) to avoid price increases,” he said. “Obviously market forces always mean that as long as there is a lot of demand, prices will skyrocket.
“We’re trying to create an environment where the business community benefits, but at the same time it’s affordable and accessible for the fans as well.”
Al-Thawadi also played down the prospect of protests in Qatar, after constant criticism over the treatment of foreign workers in a country that has the highest GDP per capita in the world.
He did not say whether protests would be allowed in Qatar, where protests are rare, or whether fans could wave the rainbow flag, representing the LGBTQ community.
“Everyone is welcome. But appreciating where you come from, we have a very rich culture. We ask people to respect our culture,” he said.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and authorities are struggling to convince lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer fans that they will be safe.
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