LONDON – Qatar is still struggling to convince the world that its winning bid to host the 2022 World Cup was not corrupt, the leader of the country's organizing committee said Wednesday.
Since becoming the first Middle Eastern country to win the right to host the World Cup last December, Qatar has had to deny a series of allegations of bribery.
A whistleblower claimed that two FIFA executive committee members were paid $1.5 million to vote for Qatar, although she later went public to retract the allegations.
''Perception (of corruption) will always be a sense of frustration until we overcome how people view us,'' Hassan al Thawadi, the secretary general of Qatar's organizing committee, told the Leaders in Football conference.
Shaking off the perception of corruption has not been helped by former Asian confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam since he was banned for life for trying to bribe voters during his attempt to unseat FIFA President Sepp Blatter in June.
''Mohamed bin Hammam is his own man,'' Al Thawadi told the delegates. ''He and Qatar 2022 are completely independent and separate. The appeal is his decision and his steps. We have to ride it out as patiently as having to ride out the whistleblower allegations and others.''
Al Thawadi insisted that the bid was conducted to the ''highest ethical and moral standards.''
''What we did not know or expect was the avalanche of accusations and allegations that we would face in the immediate aftermath of what was a historic day for sport in our country and for the wider region,'' he said. ''Baseless accusations were made against our bid. We were presumed guilty before innocent without a shred of evidence being provided.''
Since beating Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States to the 2022 World Cup last December, Qatar has been stressing how its finances, resources and technology can overcome any logistical challenges posed by the intense summer heat in the desert nation.
Al Thawadi sees the World Cup as a chance for Qatar to deliver a sporting event for the youth of the Middle East, reflecting on the Arab Spring that has produced uprisings in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.
''These countries need to focus a lot of their passion on rebuilding their countries and putting their passions into use,'' he said.
But Al Thawadi claimed that there is no danger of political instability before Qatar hosts the World Cup.
''When it came to the Arab uprisings, Qatar was a socially and politically stable country. There is a significant move from the government itself towards reform,'' he said. ''These issues are being moved from the top down. So there are no concerns about an uprising.''