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Old 16th December 2015, 11:59   #1
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Default Al-Thawadi puts record straight on investigations, construction deaths and kafala

Al-Thawadi puts record straight on investigations, construction deaths and kafala
By Andrew Warshaw
Inside World Football 16 December 2015 GMT: 10:58

Hassan Al-Thawadi, head of Qatar's 2022 World Cup organising committee who was the public face of the surprise ballot victory five years ago, says his team has not been contacted by any officials from either the US or Swiss investigations into widespread football corruption and has repeated he does not expect the Gulf state to be stripped of host status.

Swiss authorities have confirmed they are reviewing 133 reports of suspicious financial activity linked to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups handed to Russia and Qatar respectively. And last week, US attorney general Loretta Lynch said she hoped Qatar would co-operate with any investigation.

But Al-Thawadi, not for first time, re-iterated there is no evidence of wrongdoing and denounced Qatar's critics for singling out the country's bid for attack.

"We always expected criticism," Thawadi said in an interview posted on the Supreme Committee's website.

"There isn't a single major sporting event in the world that doesn't go through that journey, but I think ours has been particularly intense."

"We became the victim of a campaign that singled out Qatar and our successful bid without any shred of evidence."

Asked if he was worried Qatar could be stripped of the right to host the tournament, Thawadi replied: "Absolutely not."

"What is happening at FIFA is a completely separate issue compared to Qatar's right to host the World Cup, which people will hopefully start to realise."

"It is important to contextualize the comments of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, hoping for Qatar's co-operation, if required, in the investigations being undertaken by American and Swiss authorities. This was a direct response to a question from Ms. Lynch's audience specifically referring to Qatar, rather than the Attorney General stating this of her own volition."

"We have not been contacted by the US Department of Justice or the office of the Swiss Attorney General in relation to their investigations. We cooperated fully with Michael Garcia's Ethics Committee investigation and intend to do the same should there be any request from the American or Swiss authorities."

"We maintain that we conducted our bid ethically and with integrity, strictly adhering to all rules and regulations."

In a wide-ranging in-house interview, Al-Thawadi also defended Qatar's human rights record that has taken such a battering, insisting not a single migrant worker has died whilst employed on venues for the 2022 finals.

He rejected claims in the US media that 1,200 labourers had perished on World Cup construction sites.

"That is simply not true. In more than 14 million man hours worked the Supreme Committee has not experienced one fatality on site."

Earlier this year, Qatar announced it was amending its much-criticised 'kafala' system, which limits the rights of migrant workers and has been likened by critics to modern-day slavery. Amnesty International said recently that "almost nothing" had been done in the five years since Qatar was awarded the World Cup to improve treatment of almost two million foreign workers, many employed on tournament projects.

But al-Thawadi said this wasn't true either even if progress was deemed too slow by some.

"No-one in Qatar denies these challenges exist, but we must be allowed to find an answer that works for a country which experienced unprecedented economic growth which gave Qatar an immense opportunity but also a great sense of responsibility," he said.

"The government recently demonstrated their commitment with the announcement of labour reforms, which shows the determination to use this tournament as a catalyst for social progress. These reforms may not be coming quick enough for some people but our focus is on sustainable change. There will inevitably be a lot of noise surrounding the way those changes are implemented, but Qatar is committed to progressing.

"We've achieved a lot since 2010 but the hard work is only just beginning, believe me. Hopefully with the same level of commitment and desire from all of our staff and stakeholders the next seven years will see us deliver an amazing tournament and leave a legacy the entire country can be proud of."
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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