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Doha (CNN) --
Doha (CNN) --
Qatar is unrecognizable by comparison with the country it was 12 years ago, when it won its bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Some $220 billion has been invested in building a completely new, a state-of-the-art metro system and hundreds of new hotels and residential buildings.
Like other countries that have hosted major events, Qatar has been under the scrutiny of the international community.
At the same time, its own population has been exposed to international ideals, as well as changing cultural and social norms, in anticipation of the influx of more than a million soccer fans to their small country.
"Qatar has changed a lot in the last 12 years and culturally this has had a huge impact," Ali Adnan Abel, a 30-year-old Qatari soccer fan, told CNN.
"We have seen greater diversity which has made Qataris realize that it is time to put down the shields."
As the host of the World Cup, Qatar has come under intense pressure to enact legal changes.
He has dismantled the controversial Kafala system, a long-established regional labor practice that gives companies and minority citizen populations control over the employment, movements and immigration status of immigrant workers.
CNN Exclusive: Qatari security officials detain World Cup attendees for wearing rainbow-colored items
"What we have seen in this case is that certainly no attention was paid internationally, or even nationally, to the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar, and that certainly changed after Qatar gained the ability to host the World Cup," James Lynch, director of the human rights group FairSquare and a former British diplomat in Doha, told CNN on Saturday.
But questions remain about whether the reforms will stick once the tournament is over and the world's eyes turn away from the Gulf nation.
The Qatari organizers of the event insist that these changes are here to stay.
"This is all part of the vision that we have for 2030 and is one of the pillars of that vision," Fatma Al Nuaimi, a spokeswoman for the organizers, the Qatari Supreme Committee, told CNN's Becky Anderson, referring to the government's project. for your future.
Qatar, a deeply conservative and Muslim country, relaxed alcohol laws in preparation, allowing fans to drink in specific areas, although being drunk in public is illegal, although just two days before kick-off, FIFA announced it would not would sell alcohol in stadiums.
The tournament has also provided an opportunity for men and women to live together in a country that would otherwise be segregated.
Women and children have had a strong presence in fan areas and stadiums, watching matches in what has traditionally been a male-dominated arena.
However, history shows that it is rare for major sporting events like the World Cup or the Olympic Games to be long-term catalysts for social change.
Russia infamously hosted the World Cup in 2018 and tried to project an image of tolerance by allowing fans to carry rainbow flags despite years of crackdown on the LGBTQ community.
This is the situation in Qatar for the LGBTQ community, women and migrants
But Russia's President Vladimir Putin has since rejected liberalism as tensions with the West soared, and after invading Ukraine earlier this year, Moscow cracked down hard on any anti-war protests.
And just last week, the country's lower house of parliament passed an amendment to its "LGBT propaganda" law, which prohibits all Russians from promoting or "praising" homosexual relationships or publicly suggesting that they are normal.
On the other hand, studies have shown that the international perception of Germany improved after hosting the 2006 World Cup, and much of the sports infrastructure implemented is still in use.
"For there to be a positive legacy, this change has to continue," said Thomas Ross Griffin, associate professor of American and Postcolonial Literature at Qatar University.
"And what the history of the tournaments in London, Brazil, Russia has told us is that change usually ends once the final whistle is blown. It's up to Qatar to show the world that their change is something that will stick. beyond the last game of the tournament".
Although changes have been made to Qatar's labor law, human rights groups say more needs to be done.
Just a month before the World Cup began, Amnesty International claimed that the 2020 labor reforms had not been properly implemented or enforced.
Qatar, he said, continues to lack freedom of expression and association and discriminates against women and LGBTQ people in law.
"Now, the question is that if [this reform] was not applied correctly before the World Cup, with the world's eyes on Qatar, what are the prospects after the World Cup, that is the big concern." Lynch said.
While some have called for a boycott of Qatar over its treatment of LGBTQ people, others have argued that going to Doha and showing solidarity with the LGBTQ community there can spark lasting change.
Spain's Sports Minister Miquel Iceta, who is openly gay, said hosting the World Cup would bring a lasting improvement to Qatar's human rights record by reinforcing freedom and tolerance in the country.
Jakob Jensen, head of the Danish football association, praised the changes that have taken place in Qatar since 2010 in an interview with CNN's Becky Anderson.
"We don't believe in boycotting. We believe that you make a difference by participating, discussing, engaging and having a dialogue," she said.
Others, however, see Qatar hosting the event as a slap in the face for human rights activists.
At FIFA's 72nd Annual Congress in April, Norwegian Football Association President Lise Klaveness delivered a scathing speech calling the decision to award Qatar the tournament "unacceptable" and demanding that FIFA to do more to defend his principles.
It is likely that it will be months and even years before the true extent of the World Cup's influence in the small Gulf state is known, says Lynch.
"I think there will be an expectation that there will be comparable scrutiny for future major projects, and I think that's a good thing," he said.
"If it leads to large-scale reform, I think it's a bigger question and I think we'll have to wait and see."
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