The tournament where Qatar surpasses itself

Framboise Gommendy from Doha

I know, I know, you are going to say “yeah, Fram is at it again, praising Qatar”… Well, sue me. What else is to be done to be honest, where one is treated as we are treated in Doha, yet again?? You have tournament organisations, good, bad, terrible, or so so. Acceptable or laughable. Great or forgettable. And then you have Qatar Organisation.

It’s the 5th time the Worlds are being held in Doha. That is an absolute record! Qatar, take a bow….

It’s also my 15th visit to Qatar, so I can say I start to know my way around, and I have always been treated beautifully here. But this year, I have to say the organisation has surpassed itself.

What makes Qatar organisation so special, you are entitled to ask…

The pick up from the airport, spot on, been taken to the Kempinski Hotel in the Pearl of Doha in an upgraded limousine – last year was not bad, but this year, personal AC and TV at the back, I kid you not.

As ever, you do not wait more than 2m to get one to get to the venue or back to the hotel. Heads would roll, God forbid.

The Hotel. How to describe it? It’s an Arabian Palace really, huge, with splendid space, corridors, restaurants, bars, rooms all around. Takes a while to find your way around actually!

The players are delighted of course, as they are not sharing for once, they all have their private room – looks like a suite more like to be honest, sofa, dressing, both bathtub and walk in shower, and terrace with view on the Doha Bay of course (the Pearl is like a little island). The players have also free food, that too is unusual and you can imagine, extremely appreciated, along with a laundry service at the venue. Incredible luxury really…

I have to say it was a real treat to be able to take the breakfast outside for once – temperature is perfect it has to be said – and catching up with some of the players/officials. As  I often stress, breakfast is the blessed moment where you can chat with the players, a moment where they are themselves and pretty much as much relaxed as they can be during an event.

Today was the calm before the storm really. Cubs and I (Steve Cubbins, SquashSite webmaster and photographer) went to the Laguna Mall in search of a notebook and a pharmacy, as I caught a bad cold on the plane. Then we went to the venue to take a few photos of this year’s set up.

Heartbreaking to see photos of Ali Farag who as you know won’t be attending the event, due to the devastating loss of his little nephew…. We all think about you, truly and utterly.

Back to the hotel, stuffing myself with pills trying to eradicate the sore throat, then a little lunch at the Sufar Restaurant, again, such a treat to be able to be outside, enjoying not only the view but the calm before the storm feel while enjoying some lovely food…

Back to the room, treating the 100+ emails (I kid you not) waiting for me after a whole day spent coming from home near Nice all the way to Doha – just remind me NEVER to connect in Frankfurt ever again, I think I walk to Doha in fact.

At 7.30 pm, we all went downstairs to get to the Opening Party – no buses or shuttle, just sumptuous limos if you please – situated in the Khalifa complex. Superb reception as usual, with MC Andy Taylor whose beard has grown longer and whiter bless him, one of the funniest characters on the tour actually. Always good to have him around…

Players, looking good and fresh, some more casual than formal bless them, but all present and delighted to be part of this incredible event.

Tournament director and QSF General Secretary Tareq Darwish Zainal was happy to welcome all the players and closed his speech declaring that “Qatar wanted this year’s event to be better and bigger than ever before”.

Well, from what we’ve seen so far, “c’est chose faite”, “box ticked”.

And as I write those words from my incredibly comfortable room, I am only too aware of the incredible privilege it is to be part of such an event in particular, and of our sport in particular.

I am so, so grateful, Elhamdoulillah, very much, for everything, as Ali Farag would said…