Did you notice something about the awards ceremony in World Cup FIFA Football 2022 that concluded this sunday, the 18th December at Lusail Iconoic Stadium, Doha? Two heads of State who handed in the trophy and medals and awards – of Qatar and France – were given no lengthy introductions. No ‘chamchas’ or sidekicks or so-called cronies by their sides to chaperone them except for skeletal security and secretaries and handful of officials. Neither of the two statesmen took to the podium to deliver a boring lecture, especially the host. What an opportunity to brag in front of the entire world and for a good reason. Who could have resisted the temptation. I was gearing up for a smatter or two minimum . I am really stunned as it sinks in how simple the entire awards ceremony was except for some brilliant fireworks lighting up the sky. Contrast this to similar scene in India. Our netas could have grabbed the mic never letting it go for next one hour ‘educating’ us public from our glorious past to current Kashmir problem and China tension. In between would get thrown in tidbits of their own political success stories . The victory lap would be promptly hijacked by Bollywood stars and bureaucrats and corporate heads besides. Every viable stage opportunity is also good for self aggrandizement for our celebrities and page 3 socialites and political bigwigs to gain a political mileage or free publicity that would come in handy, like during next election campaign. The corporate sponsors would be the next in line to snatch the mic not content with hogging the limelight, sharing the stage, rubbing shoulders with the real heroes the sportsmen, having nothing to do with the sporting event otherwise. This we have been watching in Cricket world cup events and even in IPL. The stage is sometimes overcrowded that you fear if it would give away. Even a five hundred dollar worth cheque in mega size would be co-presented by corporate heads and political ministers with the sponsor names announced every time to make sure none in the audience ever forgot anything. For years I remembered the bank chairmen and Pepsi Coke directors. What an irresistible photo op. To resist cashing in on such a mega bumper global sporting event such as FIFA cup turning off the mic, shirking attention, is remarkable and real statesmanship. It underscores also how these gentlemen are not trying to steal the thunder from the heroes of the evening, leaving the spotlight to be on the winners, the players because it is really their day. The sponsors and corporates belonged where they must: in the commercial hoardings. Maturity is all about this: letting someone have theirs. The evening belonged with the football teams and it was a well earnt trophy that deserved the unwavering attention of the entire stadium. No distractions from any quarter to share the spoils with the winners and runners up. We can all take a cue out of the awards ceremony. This is a major takeaway for me: to become the invisible wallflower and disappear when we must, and let others exalt in their moment of glory. I am sick of the parasites who are in the habit of feeding and thriving on borrowed or stolen moments of glories and success stories of others as we see in India.
Not only was the final between Argentina and France played today, today also happens to be Qatar National Day. The day is generally marked with a parade in the Corniche after flag hoisting. Most spectators would be expats like us with our schools partaking in the celebrations with cultural programmes. This year probably there has been a change in the scheme of things considering the world cup. But what a fitting crowning glory to the World Cup FIFA Football 2022 twinning with Qatar National Day celebrations. We couldn’t have hoped for a grander finale! All the buildup culminated in this wonderful finish on a landmark day. Historic moment for Qatar, the gracious hosts. I wish I was at the stadium. Some friends went for the final playout at Lusail iconic stadium and they were posting videos and pictures in social media – live feed. Festive airs for more than a month now in Qatar and it will take time for us residents for our euphoric feelings to subside! Yet I have to say, the affairs were low key somewhat. Boisterous to the right degree never overdone, CLEAN fun, quality time and friendly atmosphere it was all to put it into a nutshell. The metro stations were bursting at seams and the metro trains had added compartments. Humanity filled every single little space with every colour and creed from all corners of the globe. Truly a mega event and a grand salute to Qatar for making it a grand success. Seven stadiums within a radius of 30 km from each other, with guests running into hundreds of thousands, even I was wondering and waiting to see how it would work out. Most visitors were accommodated in the desert camps that were comfy and transported to venues in shuttle services. The metros are at very convenient points. Very thoughtful of Qatar to have planned every single detail about guest accommodation, playing teams, etc. Impressive performance from all fronts including hospitality, security, transport services, stadium management, electricity and other amenities etc. Concise coordination when teams worked in tandem to make this possible for Qatar. Excellent security and a general genial environment when everyone was waving at everyone cheerfully which is becoming a rarity these days. The way the entire world cup was handled has put the tiny nation in spotlight. Crowds are especially new to Qatar. The entire country can be summed as Greater Doha. So imagine to what extent efforts must have been put to pull the remarkable feat. So grounded are the natives, shying from limelight. I love and respect the aspect that nothing was commercialized about the world cup here in Doha, something even the first world nations of the west cannot resist. There were no hoardings, no contests or lucky draws or marketing of merchandise etc., etc., to sell out the world cup. So organized was everything that as residents of Qatar, we found that our normal routine life was left undisturbed by unraveling of a global event of such a magnitude in our midst. Excellent streamlining and management of services. In a country where expats like us outnumber the native citizens many time over, volunteers play a major role in holding and ensuring of implementation and execution of any major project. Qatar to us expats is a second home. Fifteen years and on here and I can’t imagine settling down for good in India and never be able to set foot in Qatar again after our retirement. The very thought brings a lump to my throat. Extremely grateful to govt of Qatar for making this possible for us expatriate residents working and living here in Qatar to participate and rejoice at a major world sporting event and making it memorable for us to cherish for a life time. This is the greatest gift we have received from Qatar other than the good life we have thanks to this wonderful generous nation. Qatar will go down in history for the way the world cup FIFA 2022 was conducted in such an orderly fashion silencing critics. Nothing flashy, nothing vulgar, nothing untoward – it was all a show of grace and class out and out. God bless you dearest Qatar. Wishing and praying for your eternal prosperity and growth and happiness and peace!
My FIFA World Cup 2022, Doha Diary.
Every cricket fan’s dream is to watch world cup T20 at Lords in London, England or MCC in Melbourne, Australia. Even if we are members of the cricket club in Chepauk and having attended a world cup match eons back in the MAC stadium Chennai, I don’t really get to see matches live any more when played. Plus there is genuinely not that killing interest. That kind of fan interest even for IPL matches has faded for me. Would want to go to the Lords or MCC but chances are remote I know. So imagine setting my foot into world class football stadiums here in Qatar for FIFA matches. I haven’t attended the Tennis grand slams in Doha. I did not attend the Arab league football. I haven’t watched the F1. I have to admit I never had the drive. However, having the World cup FIFA foot ball 2022 here is a different story. I used to feign interest in football because my son is a diehard Arsenal fan. So sometimes I would force myself to watch the world cup matches. I did catch up with world cup last time as well. Cricket I watch only if India is playing. Tuned into world cup T20 final this month that England won. But watching world cup football live in the ground is another level.
One among the 41000 strong crowd this November 27th, watching the Japan vs Costa rica match at Ahmed Bin Ali stadium near Mall of Qatar. Reached the venue far early anticipating heavy crowds. But things were so beautifully streamlined that I never felt uncomfortable. Airy breezy setting. Pleasant chill. The Japanese fans were drawing something like a Rangoli in front of the stadium and for my part I signed it saying it ‘with love from India.’ I told the Japanese guy who handed me the red marker that India loves Japan! Small happiness! His face lit up like a thousand watts bulb! Both sides’ flags were distributed and I got Japan. I am not really a football person at all so I was wondering whether I would get the game. But there it was, clear before me and I could enjoy every minute of the sport. Japan played an excellent game and dominated the field in both the first and the second half of the game but failed to convert some 10-20 opportunities to goals. Costa rica played bit of defensive game yet managed to carry the ball to the goal post that was closest to me. The moment watching the goal kicked keeps replaying in my mind now. That was godsend! And how the crowds erupted springing to their feet with loud chants! Electrifying atmosphere! Very neat and nice and easiest goal. It reminded me of how life is really. The hardworking talented Japan lost the match but in spirit, by merit to me they were the winners. Its more about how the game is played. How good you are in the sport. How professional and thoroughly well versed you are. The goal execution did not materialize but that does not mean the side is loser. Costa rica played a not so offensive game but lady luck was on their side. Japan is a very industrious side, that was straight away apparent. I don’t mean to underwrite Costa rica but even the amateur me may have seen better sides. Its okay. All in the game as they say. When India is not playing any sport, we can truly enjoy a game as I discovered watching Pakistan take on England in the final of the recently concluded world cup T20 cricket at MCC. England was a consistent team throughout the championship. I would have hated it had India reached the final because, every single match in the runup was won by India by one run or slender margin when the game could have gone either way. Nobody becomes world champ by fluke. You have to have the spark in you and your record must speak for you. A championship must be well deserved and honestly earnt. I do hope Japan will do better in next round. Disappointment was writ large on the faces of Japanese fans. It was exhilarating experience taking the metro rail to the stadium with a mix of international fans who had done body painting, who wrapped their bodies with their national flags and who were tattooed and with some of them carrying drums, trumpets and guitars slid across their shoulders. There has not been a train ride without someone breaking out into foot tapping music. Americans especially. Nobody is as boisterous and loud as them. Humanity is one. This is what world cup underscores. Everybody is happy. There is so much of goodness in this world that we must focus on, leaving the dirt behind. Humanity wins. It doesn’t matter to us who wins. Both the winner and the loser are family. That’s the spirit of world cup.
Dec 4th was the match between England and Senegal. As expected it was a fine match. Once again got lucky to catch two goals struck straight in front of my eyes in the goal post right in front of us by England. The third one in the second half was scored on the opposite side but still could catch glimpse of it. The goals scored right before our eyes remain unforgettable. The footwork, the tackles and the passing of the England team are proofs to why theirs is one of the finest football teams. I have to give credit to Senegal who were doing a good job to start with. Excellent defence but their enthusiasm fizzled out when England hit the second goal. The England goalie needs a special mention. Worth the money. We prefered to drive out to the Al Bayt stadium in Al Khor which was constructed by my hubby’s company in collaboration with an Italian contractor. Although he was in another project then, this is still their best where the inauguration was held. It has a 7 star pavilion for VVIPs, the kind of luxury you may not even find in yachts. Al Bayt has excellent landscaping and a string of restaurants strewn about plus it is designed like a bedouin tent. The walkways and everything around is bedouin themed after the wandering nomads of the Arabian deserts. The roof is bedouin textile fabric waterproofed. We reached the venue hours earlier to get a slot in the carpark that can accommodate tens of thousands of automobiles. Otherwise, we must take metro to Lusail and from there hop into shuttle service to the stadium (which is available every ten minutes). It was a long drive into the desert and the stadium is a feather in the cap of heavy civil industrial engineering company that is my hubby’s. More than the world cup foot ball matches, I am also going there to have a good look at the stadiums. Not to forget milling with the international crowds.
Dec 5th was our third playoff Japan vs Croatia at Al Wakra stadium. Drove over as Wakra is close. The patriotism of the Japanese never ceases to amaze me. Got my face painted with Japanese flag but bagged a Croatia flag throwing onlookers off guard! The Japanese guys were upbeat distributing plastic bags for trash collection. One group never took to their seat and were sloganeering ‘Nippo Nippo’ beating drums the entire time and I really felt bad when the team tied up and lost on Penalty kicks in the indecisive match. But Croatia like any European team played a powerful game and the Japan that I saw dominate against Costa Rica was very tame against the Europeans. Both goals were on the goal post opposite still could not miss them. But the penalty kicks were on my side and i was simply over the moon watching them from closest quarters. Truly brought out the flair of the goalies (goal keepers). The excitement in the football stadium could outweigh even the match interest for spectators! That is how infectious is the cheer and buoyant mood. Feel good factor for the crowds.
In my personal observation, I find that the tallest Europeans make the best passes and cover greater territory in defence. The shorter Asian Japanese naturally could manage only shorter passes. I loved it when Croatia scored a goal with headbutting and tied with Japan 1-1. Physical fitness is extremely important. I loved the opening ceremonies when the national flags of respective teams were carried in and displayed as their national anthems played. Whichever, the spectators were on foot giving the playing countries the respect they deserved. It is at moments like this one when you realize, it does n’t matter where you come from. I felt no difference between Senegal, Croatia, England, Japan and Costa rica. They were all the same to me and I showed equal respect to all. The crowds did.
With this our play off matches run out, and we haven’t so far been successful in getting tickets for quarter or semi finals or finals. We keep trying. For me this is lifetime experience. More than dream come true. Sometimes when our dreams don’t come true, it means something better or perhaps the best is in the offing! So what if MCC and Lords couldn’t materialize, the FIFA fruit fell right into my lap without asking! And I couldn’t have wished for more. This one month is like carnival here in Qatar even if things are low key. And i am soaking greedily every single minute in this paradise because soon this phase will be over. Still, the gift the residents of Qatar are bestowed with is like so precious that each and everyone of us shall cherish this blessing for the rest of our life.
Fan zones are the only areas where liquor flows free in Qatar for the world cup FIFA 2022. To me it all resembles the temple festivals of India. I am so used to these lightings and music still in Qatar this is the first time I am reveling in the carnival air. Doha is not exactly pedestrian friendly as everyone drives. Only the beaches and malls can find anyone on foot. So it was a rare sight seeing mixed nationalities walking down the Corniche and downtown Lussail. Back in the metro a European was giving me a strange look. I finally figured out that he was curious about my bindi, the dot. I wasn’t exactly dressed for the fan zone. We originally wanted to go elsewhere. Otherwise I would have avoided dressing up typically Indian/Hindu. Not that anyone noticed. Everyone was soaking up the FIFA mood. I struck up a conversation with an American from California. The Americans are the loudest and most boisterous with painted faces and carrying guitars etc., everywhere with them. Light music everywhere pulling a circle on onlookers. Noticed many national flags and no more sure what goes with who. Quite a few Europeans were wearing the Arab headgear over shorts! There were even a couple of Japanese girls wearing the arabi men head gear that is the red and white checkered cloth with a circular black band to hold it in place. The festivities will have a profound effect on local nationals I am sure as they set to discover the joy of celebrations with all the fanfare like we do in other parts of the world, especially my India! Qatar is as such cosmopolitan. I wear daring clothes more freely here than in India where even a 15 year old boy to 75 year old man will not resist sizing you up if you expose even a square inch of your skin. Qatar is far liberal than it is projected world wide. Anyway, we are enjoying this beautiful season which is starting to be pleasantly cold. I must make sure to pull on a pair of boots and a full sleeve shirt but I guess the shrugs can wait as of now. It will be December end when I will have to take out my sweaters even at home as minimum night temperature can hit 3 c or 4 c. So many unfavourable reports get planted in the media as I see. Qatar is benevolent and is doing a great job as I can see. So muted, laid back and not at all flashy. I really love this low key and grounded celebratory style. A statement of sheer elegance. Understatement always is powerful. How sweetly these guys have pulled the impossible feat but how modest yet. Still a long way to go, but my adoration for Qatar will be infinite after I see the way they go about this world cup. I am proud to be resident of this small but great nation that is home away from home for hundreds of thousands of expatriates from all corners of the globe.
I have to mention a word about how compartmentalized the city of Doha is. There is absolutely no inconvenience to common man. The civilian life is left undisturbed. The residents can go on with their work leading normal lives. Totally hassle free. Two stadiums are closer to my residence. One is 974 which is the container one that can be dismantled at a later date. Qatar wants to donate this stadium for assembling in an African country. The second one is at Al Tumama. Otherwise the rest are in the outskirts. Yet the maximum distance between any two stadiums is not over 30 km reportedly. Which means, Qatar has the highest density of football stadiums for the world cup. Generally, the nations that host the world cup FIFA have the venues fixed at different cities all around their country. Fans would have to spend heavily on transport and travel between cities. Doha having it all at one place eliminated the tiring and expensive exercise for the football fans. Football fans are notoriously unruly and they need management. Tickets for the FIFA matches are entirely sold out and the crowds are descending down the Doha airport in droves. Excellent streamlining and travel and hotel arrangements see to that the crowds are handled efficiently. The spread of the metro rail network ensures that the areas remain decongested and linear without the crowds spilling into the other segments of the city, leaving Doha peacefully to the residents. Having a cluster of foot ball stadiums for world cup matches in a span of one month within 30 km radius is no mean feat. It means all the resources of this tiny nation get stretched to maximum. Qatar has earlier hosted Asiad in the year 2006. Doha is now poised to hosting many more international sports championships from near future. Qatar has Qatar open tennis, F1 racing among other prestigious world events already in the calendar.
Actions matter over words. Its easiest to create an impression with words. But living up to our words is what matters. Qatar wastes no words with world media. The winning lies in achieving in real life.
World cup FIFA 2022, Doha. Qatar. A small picture gallery of some ‘sumaar’ photos!
I don’t have a great cam. I shot these pix only with my Android phone. My other one Note 8 also is not upto mark. So whatever I could manage to click I have. Sharing some FIFA memories. Videos cannot be loaded here so I leave them out. Shall try to update.
Blogging from Doha where right this moment a football match is on for the World Cup FIFA 2022. And what a quiet as I sit here when November brings in the first chills of the season. The West Bay with its tall skyscrapers in the Corniche is closed for traffic but is accessible via metro rail. This end of the city is where the real action is, even if the stadiums are spread across Qatar. Qatar is but a tiny nation, larger than Doha only by sizes. You can summarize, the whole of the country as Doha Plus. The only airport is the Doha International. Airports (the old one is opened up temporarily to handle the crowd) reportedly did see the crowds. Crowds in millions are arriving as of this minute and the hotels are full. The neighbouring countries like the UAE are chipping in with accommodation, with some forty plus flights operating between Dubai-Abu Dhabi and Doha every single day to bring in the football fans who may fly back to other GCC nations after the match. It is one hour flight. Cruise ships and the desert tents make up for exotic stays for the fans who are descending here from all across the globe. As a resident of Qatar for fifteen years now I know we have some of the finest infrastructure here. While the European nations normally would pledge some $5 billion in the world championships, Qatar has pumped in over $200 billion and has left no stone unturned to make the FIFA world cup the grandest success.
I am from India and as an expat living in Qatar I have enjoyed the benefits this government disburses to all the residents even if we are not citizens. I received the booster dose for Covid in the government clinic in Doha when the year started and I am eligible for complete free medical treatment as resident of Qatar. I would not have had the golden chance of viewing the original Picassos exhibited for avid art enthusiasts for an exorbitant price by the government who also let me savour MF Hussain in some of the finest galleries without having to shell out a penny. The latter’s works contained those of the Hindu gods that would have been a big ‘no no’ in India. I have access to finest library and museums and restaurants and malls here and the standard of living in Qatar is par excellence. World media paints the entire Arabian gulf in very bad light which is deplorable. If it is that bad, some hundred nationalities would not be working and living in the GCC nations including in Qatar, from America, Australia and Europe among other world nations.
We observe unruly mobs in football matches normally but the way the sport is enjoyed here in Doha is really beautiful. Even in the countdown to the world cup, I noticed no holdup anywhere, no hassles, no fusses, no glitzy glamorous show-offs. Life went on as usual. I did spot some foreign nationals in the malls and in supermarkets who were grocery shopping. Then there were those walking besides me in the park in the evenings. I always revel in the quiet of Doha; it has grown on me and I soak in its laidback tranquility. It gives me the elusive peace that I cannot even find in my mother country India. Now is no different. It doesn’t look like a global sporting event is afoot just right across the city. We are having our regular day. The 974 stadium is close to my residence. A couple of hours before yesterday’s match, traffic was partially diverted but the plans were very well laid. Qatar is new to this crowd handling unlike mammoth nations like India, the States or even Italy or Saudi. The Catholic and Islamic religious centers draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims that the host nations are adept at handling with practice and ample geographic territory. Picture Qatar doing it with local residents (most of who are expats like us) who have taken up the volunteer roles to serve as security personnel, ticketing staff, grounds person, media staff, etc. FIFA world cup 2022 is very well organized event with a lot of thoughtfulness gone into making it a hassle-free and a memorable gala. Remarkable! The fans zones do cater to beer and other beverages and snacks and memorabilia from FIFA. The metrorail has very good connectivity with frequency to transport thousands of fans from one end of the city to the other. The sightseeing tours and packages are best tailored for short visits ideal for small countries like Qatar. My bet is on Desert safari (which is unlike Dubai and a lot more different on a varied terrain) and on Desert camp life. The beaches are pristine and are shallow, suitable for water sports and camping overnight. Some do offer tents for stay. The water scooters and camel safaris and buggy drives on the sand dunes are recommended. I am a museum and art gallery person so I do know Qatar has an impressive collection to cater to our aesthetics if we are that kind of indoors person. The souq is also unmissable with its old world charm. I have loved Doha always for its quaint unflashy lifestyle and those who moved here from the noisy Dubai first were put off by the quiet. Doha takes time to grow on you but when it does, you will never go back to Dubai. My friends who moved here from Dubai can vouch for that. The food is Arabic, Mediterranean, Continental, Indian among others. I am not a seasoned traveler but I have toured a handful of countries. Qatar I can rate as one of the safest havens where law and order is meticulous and shopping is very pocket friendly and great experience. You can never shop the way you can for brands in Europe or America the way you can in Doha.
I was here during the Gulf crisis that saw the tiny peninsular nation isolated as they took on bravely a couple of hostile GCC nations that closed in on them menacingly. Now peace reigns but how in twenty four hours the government made alternative arrangements to see that the residents did not want for anything was amazing. Within a week four thousand Jersey cattle were flown in from down under and thus was born the local dairy farms. Until five years back, even milk and milk produce reached here from across the one land connection from the neighbouring country. No price hikes, no passing on the extra burden to the residents. I have nothing but utmost respect for Qatar for the way they handled the political crisis that had the potential to flare into a serious global crisis. World media in fact was fanning the fire exactly for that. It must have taken all their wit for Qatar not to be provoked when the stoking went vigorous. Their patience and tolerance finally won through. Not a single loose talk to ignite passions. Such a humility is rare to come across. We can take a leaf out of this great nation. The kind of maturity you find in the statesmen here is worth emulating. It was Trump’s time in America. And it always hit me then how the tiny speck of Arab country had such a responsible and grounded leadership when the largest democracy in the world had a loose cannon for the president who shot his mouth out of turn whenever opportunity presented. Diplomacy of this finesse is the real Raj tantra if you ask me.
Qatar since has become a lot more self-sufficient using the crisis as a life lesson. Their airways have more direct flights now to destinations around the world than ever before. Local manufacturing got a boost and Qatar is determined to stay as much independent as possible in all fronts. Organic farming has also caught on in a big way. Doha has received a magnificent face lift and city living has never been this clutter-free and convenient. Every facet of life in the city got upgrade thanks to FIFA world cup. Quality of life for expats in Doha is one of the best in the world.
Qatar has gas reserves for next two centuries apart from oil. Oil wells can dry up and the world can shift to green energies but the LPG will continue to stay in demand. Yet Qatar is prudent and i have never seen wealth splashed carelessly which is pretty impressive. So low key. Not even the Eid is loud and raucous. The islamic festival is only marked by silence with the one sound of the azaan piercing the quiet sky to call for prayers. It always fascinates me how muted even the celebrations are here that normally may bring the roof down in my own country India where we do not know how to enjoy an occasion without playing it up to the hilt with maximum decibels, pomp and riot. In Qatar I see that we can have a good life without having to announce it from roof tops.
Expats love working, living in Qatar not without a reason. We are a family who have prospered with Qatar. I have nothing but absolute gratitude for Qatar. I keep this my second home away from home always in my prayers. Long live Qatar! Congratulations for wonderful master handling of FIFA World Cup 2022! Wishing you many more laurels in future dear Qatar! God bless!
Last weekend of mine was kinda out-of-the-world with the live concert of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Sunidhi Chouhan here in Doha. The venue was Lusail stadium, the largest one where the World cup FIFA 2022 is to be held this November-December. So that was a double dhamaka again for me: to look up the grand stadium closeup and to listen to my favourite musical sensations. Needless to say, the event drew thousands and thousands of excited fans, 80% of who were naturally Indians and the rest were perhaps a mix of Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Nepalis. It looked the entire subcontinent had turned up at Lusail for the show. The evening saw us taking the metro that was unusually overcrowded for that time of the day. Lusail is closed to vehicular traffic because of the ensuing world cup football matches, so metro became obvious choice with everyone. Right in the metro station I could see the crowds thronging and without saying I knew everyone was headed only in one direction: Lusail. For the first time, in my life I watched and attended an event so huge, huge, mammoth in my living memory in Qatar that saw thousands of residents queue up and gather at a single site. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. But I thought I must get used to the idea. This was a sample. More is yet to come with the world cup commending on November 19th. From the metro, we walked to the stadium in Lusail where there were already lines roped off. The entry to the stadium was through different gates from the nearest vantage point as per your seat number. We had started at least two hours earlier from home. We joined a circuitous queue that took us through security protocols and FIFA event app/ticket checking before we were let into the stadium. Omg, what an architectural marvel is the stadium. I clicked (as expected!) numerous pix and selfies both in and outside the stadium and shot some videos of the musical nite as well. The Bollywood music was befitting gala opening to be organized in the stadium where the screens went up perhaps for the first time. I have never been to a football stadium before and I was more interested about the lightings, the seatings, the rows of seats, the walking corridors, the roof (that was partially open, to be closed fully in event of weather change like rain in a moment’s notice). I could see the hundreds and hundreds of fans in beeline reaching their assigned seats. There was a light snack available in the corridor. The musical was a grand success. Once the screens came down, we were back on our way to the metro station on foot. While we had walked almost 2 km to get into the stadium, we walked over 4 km to reach the metro after the concert got over by 10 pm. It took us one hour or more to wind through the maze of queues and reach the metro rail finally. The crowds had swelled the long and endless lines seemed but kept moving forward all the while in an orderly fashion. But I was really impressed by the way things were handled by Qatar. I am used to crowds in India. But here in this part of the world, this kind of gathering of crowds is something unheard of and unseen. The discipline of the masses bowled me over. And the organization and the methodology were simply impressive. Foolproof security and ID checks at various levels initially had gone very neat. I liked the way the crowds were allowed in batches to the metro station after the show to avoid stampedes. After all, we have just had a stampeding tragedy news coming in from South Korea. Whether it came to security checks or crowd management or the metro rail efficiency, Qatar proved the best in my opinion. I am giving the state the credit because I know, they are new to this unlike us in India. It takes enormous and skilled manpower, patience, meticulous planning, training, dryruns and diligence to manage this so well and keep things flowing smoothly. The execution part is vital. The evening proved that the little peninsula nation is so well run and capable. I became very proud of Qatar where I enjoy residency status. It was a moving experience for me. But why should I be surprised. I have seen how the country fared during the gulf crises a few years back. Overnight the milk and the groceries ran out in the supermarkets but the government imported 4000 jersey cows from Australia in matter of days and started the dairy farm right away in the middle of the desert, milking the cattle in aircon environments. In no time, the groceries and provisions reached the tiny country by sea and none of us ever suffered or lacked for anything. I have to make mention that, the difference in costs was NEVER PASSED ON to us residents. This is such a dear and sensitive thing to do, you know: not passing on the extra burden to the public most of who were expats. For that one gesture I shall remain eternally grateful to Qatar. We continued to live safely and securely the normal life and we never footed extra penny. Through the crisis, there was never a loose canon shot by way of careless talks by officials concerned as they stoically maintained the fragile peace which was their motive. Those in power remained extremely responsible. Hats off Qatar. There is a lesson here for all of us. I do lose my cool so easily and I take out my ire on all and sundry if I have to! Its that easy to provoke me and each trigger sends me trailing further backward. That tight self control and wisdom we saw in Qatar was rare and precious. That maturity is rare. Qatar proved to me once again at Lusail why this tiny dot of nation is respected worldwide and is doing so very well. The unprecedented or perhaps expected crowds were handled professionally without the history or advantage of experience, late that evening by the volunteers who deserve a pat on their backs.
Those like Saudi are used to hosting nations and millions of visitors for Haj like events.
To those who are not well informed on crowd management, even India is a great lesson. In every mandir/temple we have queues. Hindu temple festivals draw crowds in hundreds of thousands. In Tirumala Tirupathi, everyday darshan headcount could be anywhere between 60000 to 120000 devotees. So I am used to chugging it out in serpentine queues for hours. Every single Hindu pilgrimage place round the year records millions of footfalls. After all India hosts Kumbhamela, the largest congregation of human race on planet Earth every 12 years from very ancient times. Even the pandemic did not prove to be a dampener to the Kumbh attendees from across the world. To close the festival eventfree, without the scourge of an epidemic and without or bare minimal casualty is a tremendous feat. Kumbh is not a single day event. It goes on for 12 days. I have always thought that crowd management in India needs applause. Unlike the systematic crowd management that I witnessed in Doha last week, India’s masses cannot be controlled so easily. Our masses are semi literate or totally illiterate which makes matters worse. It takes a lot of voluntary discipline to make any rallying event a grand success in my country. There is the official presence and security network no doubt – by way of para military and police forces apart from health facilities and travel arrangements and lodgings, yet the mammoth crowd managements that is so regular in India is unseen in any other part of the world. Kumbh is on for millennia – from time immemorial.
There are ways to control crowds within limited spaces which is why we have ‘paid darshan’ in temples. Okay, it may not be exactly ethical but sometimes screenings such as these are absolutely necessary to filter masses and regulate crowds. Mob violence is very easy to spark in a nation as diverse and volatile and socially sensitive like India. I felt better to notice that a similar crowd management is practised in the Vatican to regulate crowds with charges introduced at every stage including to the tour of the cupola. The methods devised may always not be desirable but the results are worth sharing.
I did mingle in the crowds at the Disneyland in Florida in the US.
Crowd management is an important lesson in governance. Mostly the third world countries are good at it in my opinion! May be this has got to do with the masses having the practice of queuing up for rations and awaiting their turn with patience! Whatever. In case of India, the queueing, the waiting, the stalling is happening for years, centuries now. Unless there is this inbuilt discipline in the masses, this is just not realizable. Remember the crowds in our trains and buses. The mobs in our festivities. Through all that chaos, something still seems to be working!
When a flight lands, we Indians always would want to disembark first, throwing patience and discipline to wind. Whereas you can see those from the first world nations rooted to their seats waiting for the rest of the air passengers to ease out. I always would wonder why should we Indians be so impatient. But the airplane is a very negligent sample really that cannot be projected on a huge population of one billion plus on a vast subcontinent like ours. I would rather, the inflight psychology is kind of standard deviation or variation to our general crowd management statistical history. Which is why stampedes are more common in more civilized parts of the world than ours. A little more numbers, these foreigners start feeling claustrophobic losing their mind. It doesn’t take much for them to panic and start the pandemonium ending in a typical disaster. Its almost as if such a tragedy would be waiting to strike.
Of the wide range of immunities we Indians develop, survival in crowds is priceless. We are so used to bodies pressed to bodies, sweating, with our hot breaths on each other’s nostrils that not even the pandemic could ravage us the way it did across the globe. We were warned of a catastrophe but we got out lightly barring for a few episodes during the second wave which took a terrible among the world countries.