Fifty days before the World Cup kicks off in Qatar, workers are pouring concrete and banging through the night to complete luxury hotels and bargain apartments for a million or more football fans.
Hundreds of migrants work in the 211-meter (696-foot) high Katara Towers, dramatically shaped like intertwined scimitars, where VIP guests from world football’s governing body FIFA will stay during the tournament.
The richest pay thousands of dollars a night for rooms with marble wine cellars and a lobby with one of the world’s largest chandeliers.
But mountains of sand lie on the steps and some of the smoked glass windows have yet to be installed on this landmark on the Lusail coast near the stadium where the finals will be played.
“Everyone works around the clock,” said an engineer on the project on condition of anonymity.
“It will change if everything is installed in a way that suits the people who pay so much,” this expert told AFP.
A spokesman for the Accor group, which will operate the Fairmont and Raffles hotels in Katara Towers, insisted they would be ready for “FIFA guests” during the World Cup and then officially open after the tournament.
– $50,000 chalet per night –
Work is frantic throughout Doha.
Forty kilometers away in Barwa Barahat Al Janoub, another army of laborers works under floodlights at night and in the scorching sun during the day to finish apartments for fans who pay $84 a night for a steel bed in a dorm.
The Barwa complex, out in the semi-desert, is expected to house more than 7,500 World Cup fans and later be used for the thousands of foreign workers who fuel Qatar’s oil and gas-powered economy.
A source at the project – which is 10 kilometers from a tube station – said hundreds of rooms were yet to be completed and that workers were engaged in “a furious race against time”.
A spokesman for the Organizing Committee of Qatar said: “All accommodation facilities at the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be ready in time for fans, teams and officials to arrive in Qatar for the tournament.”
There is a “comfortable inventory” for teams and fans, this spokesman added.
Positioned at opposite extremes, the sword-shaped towers and sober workers’ rooms will play a key role in accommodating fans of the 32 nations taking part in the World Cup from November 20th.
Organizers say more than a million fans will come and 130,000 rooms in hotels, apartments, cruise ships and desert tents will be usable.
But some supporters have already complained about prices and room availability.
Other Gulf cities, notably Dubai, are reporting a World Cup boom fueled by fans reluctant to stay in Qatar, in part due to Doha’s contested perception that LGBTQ respect and alcohol will be scarce.
Three cruise ships will be docked in the port of Doha, which can accommodate up to 13,000 people and pay between US$179 and US$800 per night.
For $423 a night, some supporters will stay in traditional – but air-conditioned – tents on Al Khor Beach, north of Doha, with en-suite bathrooms, flat-screen TVs and other luxuries.
Also, 1000 Bedouin-style tents will be set up, allowing fans to experience Qatari-style camping without air conditioning. The organizers have not announced the price.
Some Qatari landlords are trying to cash in on the World Cup, charging over $4,000 a night for apartments in Doha. A two bedroom chalet is advertised on booking.com for nearly $50,000 per night.
While 80 percent of Doha’s 30,000 hotel rooms are reserved by FIFA, some suites are advertised on the open market for $5,500 a night.
“There is a lot of negotiation on prices,” said a Doha tour guide.
Nasser Al-Khater, chief executive of the World Cup organizers in Qatar, stressed in a television interview this week that official accommodation is being subsidized to keep prices down.
“The private sector also provides housing units and they have the right to set the price they see fit,” he said.