Up to 1.3 million fans will visit Qatar during the 2022 World Cup, an official said Thursday, equivalent to half the Gulf country’s population.

Nasser Al-Khater, a senior figure with the body organising Qatar’s World Cup, also said that for the first time in tournament history many of the fans would come from outside Europe and South America.

“We believe we are going to have a huge influx (of fans), 1.3 million during the tournament,” said Khater, speaking as Qatar unveiled its first fully refurbished World Cup venue, the Khalifa International Stadium.

“We are putting a ceiling cap of 1.3 million as an estimate.”

He added: “I think everybody when they think of a World Cup, they expect the majority of the fans are going to be coming from western Europe and South America.

“I think, first of all, football is changing, but I think also because of the geographical location of Qatar, I think we are going to see the majority of fans come from the region, mainly from Saudi Arabia.

“We are going to see a lot of fans coming from India, a lot of fans coming from Russia.

“I think we will see something very different in this World Cup.”

About one million people visited Brazil for the last World Cup.

The World Cup in Qatar will be held between November 21 and December 18, 2022.

Qatar’s current official population is 2.6 million — this figure has been swollen by more than two-thirds since the emirate was chosen as the 2022 World Cup host.

In December 2010, Qatar had an official population of 1.6 million.

The number of people living in Qatar has mushroomed as the Gulf country recruits tens of thousands of labourers to work on many major infrastructure projects linked to the tournament. – Agence France-Presse

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