AP Interview: Qatar plans 'normal' World Cup after vaccines

Full Screen
1 / 5

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

In this Monday, Oct. 29, 2018 picture, Nasser al-Khater, deputy-secretary general of the World Cup organizing committee, speaks during an interview with the Associated Press at the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy in Doha, Qatar. Qatar is now planning for a "complete normal World Cup in 2022 after rapid progress in producing vaccines for the coronavirus, the tournament CEO told The Associated Press on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020 ahead of the European qualifying draw. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, file)

Qatar is now planning for a "complete normal” World Cup in 2022 after the rapid progress in producing vaccines for the coronavirus, the tournament CEO told The Associated Press on Sunday ahead of the European qualifying draw.

Early in the pandemic that forced the cancelation of the European Championship and Olympics this year, Qatar was concerned about the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the first World Cup to be staged in the Middle East.

Across the world sports have resumed in front of limited or no crowds, but the vaccines have provided hope that crowds can return in large numbers from next year.

“The introduction of the vaccine and the rollout of the vaccine, it’s definitely good news for everybody,” 2022 World Cup chief executive Nasser Al-Khater said in an interview with the AP. "Everybody’s looking forward to going back to some sort of normalcy in life and especially in sports as well.

“We’re very hopeful and very looking forward that, by 2022, hopefully things will really be back to complete normal and looking forward to hosting the fans and having a normal and successful World Cup.”

European nations on Monday will discover their path to securing one of 13 spots in the tournament when the qualifying draw is staged at FIFA HQ in Zurich. The pandemic has prevented the event being staged in the host nation as would usually happen before a World Cup.

“In the post-COVID pandemic era, we hope that sports will go back to normal as quickly as possible,” Al-Khater said.

The tournament isn't just going to a new region, but being played at the end of 2022 rather than the usual June-July slot, due to the fierce summer heat in the Gulf nation.