The controversies surrounding Qatar''s hosting of the football 2022 World Cup may continue unabated but so too do the country''s preparations for the tournament itself.
DOHA - The controversies surrounding Qatar's hosting of the football 2022 World Cup may continue unabated but so too do the country's preparations for the tournament itself.
"I can say we are on schedule," tournament chief Hassan Al-Thawadi told AFP earlier this month.
This week, the man who oversaw Brazil's preparations for the 2014 World Cup, Ricardo Trade, visited Qatar and announced himself "impressed with the amount of detailed planning and stadium progress," achieved by the Qataris seven years away from the start of the tournament.
Confidence in the progress of Qatar's preparation comes at the same time as the howls of protest at the country's proposed hosting of the World Cup grow ever louder.
Just in the past few weeks alone, Qatar's poor image in the eyes of many abroad has been further battered by events.
Anger over the arrests of two foreign journalist crews trying to expose the squalid living conditions faced by many labourers, the Council of Europe (CoE) calling for a re-run of the vote which awarded the tournament to the Gulf emirate, trades unions urging World Cup sponsors to lobby for reform, and the imminent publication of another unfavourable Amnesty International report, have all added to the feeling that Qatar's World Cup is under permanent seige.
Meanwhile a FIFA meeting later this month could see a resolution tabled to remove the World Cup from Qatar because of the slow pace of labour reforms.
Yet inside Qatar all this appears to be making little difference to the Gulf country's timetable for the 2022 tournament.
Thawadi, a fervent Liverpool fan who talks dreamily of his idol "King Kenny" Dalglish, bullishly dismisses criticism and says: "We have always said we have been confident in the integrity of our bid."
On the ground, Qatar's preparations already mean that work has begun on potentially more than half of the stadiums that will be used by the world's best footballers in seven years' time.
Qatar has unveiled the designs for or already begun reconstruction on five of the grounds to be used.
As few as eight stadiums -- or as many as 12 -- might be used for the first World Cup ever to be held in the Middle East, which is uniquely taking place in the months of November and December.
Last month, Thawadi was on hand to oversee the launch of the latest stadium design for the 40,000-seater Al Rayyan stadium, Doha, which will be used to host matches up until the quarter-final stage.
Renovations have begun on the Khalifa International Stadium, which will also host the 2019 World Athletics Championship.
In the north of Qatar, the main construction on the 60,000 Al-Bayt Stadium, which will be the site for one of the World Cup semi-finals, will start later this summer.
In addition, preliminary building work has begun on the Qatar Foundation Stadium and the Al Wakrah Stadium, shaped to look like a traditional dhow boat. Each of these has a capacity of 40,000.
It has also been announced that renowned British architects Foster and Partners will design the stadium that will host the final of the tournament in 2022.
The 80,000 seater stadium will be constructed in the purpose-built city of Lusail, some 15 kilometres (10 miles) north of Doha.
On time, on budget?
It may be on time but it is not known if Qatar's World Cup preparations are on budget.
One unknown is just exactly how much the tournament is costing the deep-pocketed Qataris.
Multi-billion dollar figures for the actual cost of the tournament in the energy-rich county have been thrown around, but Thawadi refuses to play ball.
"I can't disclose the budget we have represented so far because a lot of the stadiums are at tender phase, so I don't want to provide the numbers," he said.
Qatar World Cup "on schedule" despite controversies