DOHA (Reuters) - Qatar would let Israel take part in a World Cup on its territory despite not recognising the Jewish state, the head of the Gulf nation’s bid to stage the 2022 soccer extravaganza said on Tuesday.
Such an invitation would be unprecedented in the Arab world, most of whose countries shun Israel.
Hassan Abdulla Al Thawadi, chief executive of the Qatar 2022 bid, added that the Muslim state would also permit alcohol consumption during the world’s most watched sporting event.
In a further attempt to make its bid more attractive, Qatar would develop cooling technologies to offset the summer heat during June and July, when temperatures in the desert state can exceed 45 degrees Celsius.
Qatar, the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, is a U.S. ally. But, like its Gulf Arab neighbours, it does not recognise Israel.
“All nations participating in the FIFA World Cup are welcome,” Thawadi said, when asked about whether Israel would be allowed to participate if it qualified.
If Qatar wins the right to host the event in 2022, it would be the first major global sporting event hosted in the Middle East.
“We are very confident,” Thawadi told Reuters in an interview in the Qatari capital.
“We’ve got a bid that allows history to be made in different aspects (like) opening up the gates between the east and the west to sit and communicate.”
Qatar has tightened regulations on alcohol consumption over the last two months in an attempt to stop Qatari citizens, especially young people, from drinking.
Qataris are not allowed in bars while foreigners are asked to present their passports or a membership card to gain entry.
Asked whether drinking would be allowed at the event, Thawadi said: “We are looking at 2022 to be an event mainly for families to attend -- on the other hand alcohol will be available.”
He said alcohol would be available in “a flexible approach.”
“It will be available to all fans that come to Qatar, at fan zones,” Thawadi said.
The Qatar organisers say the event will also stimulate technological innovation and create a big commercial opportunity for the Middle East and soccer’s ruling body FIFA. Thawadi said the plan was to build between 12 to 18 stadiums for the month-long competition.
Some of Qatar’s stadiums already use cooling technology which creates an indoor temperature of 26 degrees even when the
outside heat can be much higher, Thawadi said.
“There have been previous World Cups where the weather was quite hot and they were able to host a successful (event),” Thawadi said. “We are looking to develop technologies to address the heat issue, in such a way that utilises renewable energy.”
“In 12 years time, (that technology) will be much more developed and the source of energy such as solar energy will be utilised on a commercial basis.”
The next deadline in the 2022 process is Dec 11, when bidders must submit a signed hosting agreement.
(Editing by Amran Abocar and Barry Moody
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