Posted on September 24, 2015

German lawyer and former 800 meter runner Sylvia Schenk took part in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, and has been a Board Member of Transparency International Germany from 2006 until 2013. She now leads their working group ‘sport’ as well as coordinating the Sport and Rights Alliance (SRA) with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, ITUC, Terre Des Hommes, FIFPro and Football Supporters Europe.

On her second visit to Qatar for a recent UNESCO conference, Schenk met with Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), and was briefed at the SC offices on the Workers’ Welfare Standards being implemented across all 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar projects. Thereafter she took time to see this implementation first-hand on a visit to the construction site of the Khalifa International Stadium, and sat down with for an in-depth interview on her thoughts on Qatar’s progress, areas for improvement, the changing city of Doha and how a mega-event can help to accelerate social development.

She said: I did not see much, but I did my daily running. That is important for me, to feel safe alone at seven in the morning. This is not possible in every country of the world. I am from Frankfurt, so I am used to a skyline. Here there are many more skyscrapers with an interesting design. Different styles come together, and from almost zero, something like a big American city is being created. Qatari’s have their right to catapult themselves into modernity and I find it a very exciting development. The interesting thing to see is how strategically they are going about it. With the Qatar National Vision 2030 in mind, they are for example also looking at women’s rights, all the way to the women’s national team they are developing in football. It is a very thorough approach and very strategic, and I learned that even the concern for workers’ welfare is a result of the National Vision, and not caused by external critics, she said.

She added: When there is so much construction everywhere, there is certainly a lot of development taking place. It is interesting to see how you can keep traditions and still build the future. To be honest even the World Cup in Germany was a catalyst with regards to our own mood as a nation and it developed football in Germany and increased the quality of the stadiums for the league. A World Cup always moves a lot. Because Qatar is doing so much in a short space of time, such a World Cup can be an accelerator for change beyond the infrastructure – more than in a country which has already been through a certain and especially continuous development phase, she noted.