Interview with Dr. Hassan Moustafa, President of the International Handball Federation, on his visits and inspections in Doha and the status of Qatar 2015 preparations
Dr. Hassan Moustafa is a constant guest in Doha. The President of the International Handball Federation is permanently on-site to discuss the 24th Men’s World Championship and inspect the ongoing measures and constructions. Additionally Dr. Moustafa was guest of honour at the mascot launch event and the start of the official Qatar 2015 countdown.
In this interview, Dr. Moustafa gives a personal view on what Qatar 2015 means to him as he concludes his visits and inspections.
You had been to Doha for the mascot launch event and to start the official Qatar 2015 countdown timer. How did you like those events?
Dr. Hassan Moustafa: I really appreciated both events, which again showcased the abilities of a strong nation with creative ideas and the power of enthusiasm. Qatar used the opportunity of the National Sport Day to promote this pinnacle event of 2015 and invite all people to be part of the championship. While the mascot launch was highlighted by the presence of His Excellency Sheikh Joaan, the colourful and spectacular launch event was attended by His Excellency the Prime Minister of the State of Qatar Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani. I was really impressed with both events.
What is your opinion on Fahed, the mascot of Qatar 2015?
Dr. Hassan Moustafa: He is a nice boy! The idea of bringing the mascot to life for a handball penalty shoot-out against His Excellency Sheikh Joaan was simply brilliant. Usually we have animal mascots at major events. Qatar did it in a different way, creating a mascot, which symbolises the curious youth of Qatar with a real story behind, it is fantastic. I believe, Fahed will become one of the stars of the World Championship.
You mentioned H.E. Sheikh Joaan being very sportive at the mascot launch – did you expect his talents?
Dr. Hassan Moustafa: His Excellency Sheikh Joaan is committed to sports, to all sports, but especially to handball. He lives the passion and enthusiasm of the people of Qatar, who are eager to become the world’s hub of sport events. So it was no surprise to me seeing His Excellency in a track suit as a handball goalkeeper, facing Fahed in this shoot-out. I appreciated this way of introducing the mascot – and as you saw, I was also wearing a sports dress like all major representatives of the Organising Committee. We wanted to show that we are all close to sports and close to the athletes – and remember: It was the National Sport Day.
Additional to those two events you had held different meetings with the Organising Committee of Qatar 2015 and were part of many inspections. How do you rate the status of the preparations?
Dr. Hassan Moustafa: Qatar is on a perfect way, this is simply the answer to this question. Since the awarding of the 2015 World Championship in 2011, the International Handball Federation is in a very productive cooperation with the Organising Committee. We had a big number of inspections and meetings. There were challenges to clarify, but the organisers of Qatar 2015 put our proposals and advice into action. I was really impressed with the progress of the preparations. The Organising Committee and its various departments do a great job, starting from accommodation, venues, marketing, operations to the general hospitality of people. Qatar 2015 will even overachieve certain standards, set in the IHF Bid and Event Manual, in various cases.
But in general, for me and the IHF, the most important part of a World Championship are the players. And they will experience a unique event, mainly because of the fact that we will have the first ever Men’s World Championship in one city, which means no travel days, perfect rest between the matches, but also an extra-ordinary physiotherapist and medical treatment, if needed, by the world-renowned facilities in Doha, like in the Aspire Zone. So I only can repeat myself by saying that I expect the best World Championship ever in Qatar.
One important part of an event like this are the venues, which you had inspected again. Are all constructions on schedule?
Dr. Hassan Moustafa: I was pleased by the status of construction of all three new arenas, which are currently being built. The International Handball Federation and its event and organising experts had been helping hands in planning, mainly for the operational areas. So we were involved in every step of planning and construction. Qatar is on track with all construction sites, this is my clear message after seeing the progress. We have scheduled several test events for autumn like the 2014 edition of the IHF Super Globe to check the operations and the facilities itself. And during my inspections I again had the chance to speak to the workers and see that the working conditions for them are also perfect. My friend, His Excellency Sheikh Joaan, as chairman of the Organising Committee takes personal care on this subject. So I am really happy with what I inspected in Doha. The creation of those multi-purpose arenas prove the clear will of the Qatar Olympic Committee to set milestones for the future for hosting a huge number of top sports events – and the Handball World Championship will be another pinnacle tournament on their way.
In the previous months Qatar 2015 have intensified their marketing and promotion campaigns for the event all around the globe. Will the organisers manage to fulfil their “no-empty-seats-policy”, which they had guaranteed in their bid for the event?
Dr. Hassan Moustafa: This is one of the biggest tasks and challenges for the organisers. But in the last weeks and months I attended several top events like the Asian, African and European championships. And no matter if in Algeria, Bahrain or Denmark, Qatar 2015 was present in the arenas by advertising and promotional activities. It is the clear effort of the Organising Committee to activate as many fans from all over the world to be part of the World Championship. Qatar 2015 has a clear advantage, as they can combine top handball and tourism due to the weather conditions in January. Of course, the event is in the spotlight, but by creating those fan packages and implementing their promotion campaigns I believe that Qatar 2015 is on a good way to fulfil their policies.
You often mentioned the close cooperation with His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim, His Excellency Sheikh Joaan and the Prime Minister in all terms of preparation. How important do you rate the support of the government for events like this?
Dr. Hassan Moustafa: Qatar 2015 is more than backed from the government and the State of Qatar. Driven by this great support certain tasks are much easier to handle compared to previous events. The State of Qatar invests a lot in this World Championship, not only money, but also manpower. In several inspections and meetings since the award and during events like the IHF Super Globe, the International Handball Federation has recognised the professional way Qatar is going to organise the World Championship.
And one can see the enthusiasm, which is spread from the top of the State to all inhabitants. If the government rolls up their sleeves they are role models for everybody. One can see the ambitions Qatar has in all kinds of sport management, sport operations and sport events. They are a leading and driving force for the region and the world, showcasing their abilities in all aspects. And you can only reach those targets with the full support of the government. So I am very pleased with the involvement of the State, starting from His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim, who was responsible for creating the new venues, and His Excellency the 24th Men’s World Championship President Sheikh Joaan, who are fully backing the event from the top.
After your visit in Qatar for the countdown and mascot launch – how would you characterise your anticipation for the event?
Dr. Hassan Moustafa: At first I am really curious on the upcoming parts of qualification on the way to Qatar. Currently only eleven of 24 participants are confirmed and we are really looking forward to learning which teams from Pan-America, Europe and Oceania will clinch their berth for this event. At second, I feel the expectation of the handball world to gather for the first time in the Gulf Region in order to compete for a Men’s World Champion. At third I hope for full arenas, knowing from former events that the success of the hosting nation is highly important for the atmosphere. But I am sure that coach Valero Rivera will build up a strong team for Qatar. I hope for thousands of handball fans, arriving in Qatar to attend the matches and to experience the great hospitality. So indeed I feel a great anticipation for Qatar 2015, knowing that the hosts will do all they can to organise a brilliant event.