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Photos: Fans preparing for the FIFA World Cup

Qatar is gearing up for the official start of the 2022 World Cup on Sunday as throngs of fans and residents feel the excitement.

From Doha’s Souq Waqif to the crowded waterfront and colorful displays on the city’s streets, the country is abuzz with the premier football event, which is expected to draw more than 1.2 million visitors to Qatar.

Qatar has undergone significant transformations since winning the bid to host the 2022 World Cup more than a decade ago. The tournament will be played in eight stadiums and some fans will stay on cruise ships and at desert sites, with at least three floating hotels docked in Doha.

Anticipation was building on Thursday night as fans, many dressed in the jerseys of their favorite teams, flocked to the tourist sites of Doha and Lusail.

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World Cup organizers have advised fans to plan ahead when attending matches as the Doha Metro was expected to be much busier than usual amid the international mass influx.

Mutaz Barshim, Olympic high jump champion and FIFA World Cup ambassador, says the event offers a unique opportunity to bring people together through football. “The World Cup will have a positive impact on our society by showing our culture around the world and helping people create friendships and build networks,” he told the Qatar organizing committee.

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