What Qatar’s World Cup will really be like
It will be like holding a World Cup inside Canberra.
For all eight airconditioned stadiums rising from the Qatari sands are within 50km of the chrome and glass skyscrapers in capital Doha's centre.
The shortest journey between stadiums in Qatar is 5km - roughly the same distance between the MCG and Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.
"If fans are really hardcore and they make a run for it, they could potentially see three group games in a day," Qatar official Nasser Al Khater told The Sun.
In Russia, visiting the most distant stadiums - Kaliningrad and Yekaterinburg - meant a 2500km flight.
The longest distance between the Gulf state's 2022 World Cup arenas is just 56km.
The compact nature of 2022 - Qatar is smaller than the greater Sydney region - may offer solace for Aussie fans still coming to terms with the idea of a World Cup in the desert in November and December.
What's certain is that downtown Qatar will not resemble the raucous, month-long open-air party that was Moscow's Nikolskaya Street.
But there's little doubt its infrastructure will be ready on time for this is the World Cup in the richest nation on Earth, where money is no object.
The Sun was given exclusive access to the giant Lusail Stadium, the 80,000-capacity showpiece venue for the opening game and semi-finals which is rising rapidly 22km from central Doha.
"The beauty of rotating the World Cup is that fans get to see different cultures and places. This time it's the Qatari culture," stadium project manager Tamim el Abed says.
"Qatar is highly cosmopolitan, with a huge expat population. The idea of having people from other cultures isn't new to the Qataris. They're used to it and have adapted.
"Every place has its niche. Here it's hospitality - it's almost unspeakable letting someone go away feeling they haven't been given seven-star treatment."
Unlike the traditional scramble for venue completion at other sporting jamborees, Qatar says all its stadiums will be ready two years early.
Some, like the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt arena, built in the shape of a Bedouin tent, and the 40,000-seat Al Wakrah Stadium that is modelled on traditional dhow fishing boats, are already nearing completion.
The Sun visited Al Wakrah Stadium, 15km from Doha, where the seats are already going in.
Outside the stadium its pristine pitch is already growing like a green oasis amid the construction dust.
All stadiums will be fully airconditioned - despite their roofs being open to the heavens.
Temperatures here in November and December average around the mid-to-high 20Cs.
"It's very pleasant outdoors here at that time of the year," Tamim added. "There's a criteria that on the pitch the temperature will be no more than 26C."
The already-completed Khalifa International Stadium has around 500 nozzles which pump out cold air created by chilling water in a tank overnight. The same system will be used in the other new arenas.
The Qatari World Cup has been mired in allegations of bribery and misconduct.
Qatar has been heavily criticised over its treatment of the army of migrant workers - many from the Indian subcontinent who are labouring to build $10 billion-worth of World Cup infrastructure.
Trade union bodies and human rights organisations have calculated 1200 workers have died to date as the stadiums emerge in the blistering desert heat, a figure the Qataris dispute.
By comparison, around 21 workers died in the building and refurbishment involved in Russia hosting this year's World Cup. Under increased World Cup scrutiny, Qatar has put in place a series of safeguards, including setting a temporary monthly minimum wage of around $300.
It has also lifted a requirement that foreign workers must get permission from their employers to leave the country and improved health and safety.
At Lusail, The Sun is not allowed to tour on-site workers' accommodation because around-the-clock shift patterns meant it would disturb sleeping staff.
Nearby, carpenter Sajid Mandl, 26, tells me he earns almost $540 a month for a six-day week. He gets free accommodation, food and laundry. There's no income tax in Qatar. "I share a room with three others. I'm happy with the money," he says.
Teeming Doha will see clusters of training camps for the teams and fans from every nation crammed into this desert city.
The compact 28-day World Cup - running from November 21 to December 18 - will mean no tiring eve-of-game travel for players to unfamiliar hotels.
And no overland and sea trips to far away provincial host cities for the 1.5 million fans that are expected to attend.
The expected shortfall in hotels will see fans glamping in desert camps and staying on cruise ships moored in the Persian Gulf.
Yet even as the four-year countdown for 2022 begins, Qatar's party could be somewhat pooped.
As it stands, all games will be played in Qatar. But FIFA president Gianni Infantino is angling to increase the 2022 tournament from 32 to 48 teams instead of waiting until 2026.
Infantino said this month sharing 16 extra matches around among Qatar's neighbours would make him "very happy".
As it stands, though, football fans will not have to travel far round Qatar in four years' time.
This article was originally published by The Sun and reproduced with permission