From allegations of vote buying to human rights concerns, Qatar has been dogged by controversies ever since Fifa, the governing body for world football, handed the tournament rights a dozen years ago. Nothing, though, slows down the oil-rich nation as it prepares for a World Cup of many firsts — first in the middle east, first for an Arab country – and the second in Asia.
“Whatever happens, we need to continue with our commitments and promises, because we are looking beyond the World Cup,” Fatma Al Nuaimi, executive director of communications, Qatar Supreme Committee, told TOI.
The eight stadiums that will host the World Cup are complete a year ahead of the mega tournament. The seventh venue (Al Bayt Stadium) was inaugurated during the first game of the Arab Cup, and once the World Cup concludes, the venues will undergo massive transformations.
For example, Stadium 974, the 40,000-seater venue, will be dismantled after the World Cup and provided as assistance to needy countries as part of its legacy project.
170,000 seats from other stadiums will also be donated to countries in need of sporting infrastructure. Qatar will also share its expertise with other Asian countries.
“Qatar and a lot of countries within Asia suffer similar climate conditions and weather. We are coming up with these innovative (cooling) technologies within the stadiums, and in a sustainable way, we can impart and transfer this knowledge to other countries. This is the legacy that we want to have.
“From a design perspective, post legacy of the tournament, the plan is to remove the upper tiers (of stadiums) and donate this to countries in need of sporting infrastructure,” said Al Nuaimi.
The 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium will be transformed into a community space which will include schools, cafes, sporting facilities and health clinics, after it hosts the final on December 18.
Even the full upper tier of seating in the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium will be removed, leaving a 32,000-seater venue.
“At the end (of the World Cup), we don’t need these many stadiums (with big capacities). We had these stadiums based on Fifa’s standard requirements. However, beyond that, it’s not much. What we made sure, when we remove the upper tier, we fill it in with what is required for the community surrounding the stadiums.
“We are doing everything in consultation with the communities. We are listening to what they want – more schools, health and medical services, more parks to practice sport. Each area where the stadiums have come up consists of the requirement of the community,” said Al Nuaimi.
Qatar’s legacy planning also extends to the entertainment industry such as the concert hosted by AR Rahman in the 40,000-seater Khalifa Stadium in 2019, the first by any artist in a completed 2022 World Cup venue.
“From a legacy perspective, we are not even waiting for the end of the World Cup,” said Al Nuaimi. “We have pre-legacy usage, like AR Rehman performing at the Khalifa stadium and the IAAF World Athletics Championships (at the same venue) in 2019. We already using these facilities, beyond football.
“We have done everything in consultation with ministry of sport. Qatar will host championships (Asian Games 2030) even in the future, so we had to make sure that even with these stadiums, we can build some Olympic standard (facilities) when it comes to some of the federations. We have provisions for other sports like judo, karate. From the design perspectives, these can be transformed, instead of building more and more.”
The Fifa World Cup kicks off in Qatar on November 21.