When Qatar was selected by FIFA in 2010 to host the 2022 World Cup, it had only one operational football stadium – and even that wasn’t ready for the bright lights of football’s biggest tournament.
So ahead of the World Cup kick-off this month, the small country has scrambled to build seven new football stadiums and completely transform the existing one, transforming the capital Doha and sparking a plethora of controversies in the process. Against a backdrop of some poor PR, Qatar are overseeing the most expensive World Cup ever, thanks in large part to the cost of construction.
The Qatari government is believed to have spent between US$6.5 billion and US$10 billion to build the stadiums. Let’s take a tour of all eight to see what that money bought.
1. Lusail Stadion
Lusail Stadium, the largest stadium of the 2022 World Cup with a capacity of 80,000, is the centerpiece of a new neighborhood that also houses a five-star hotel and a 6 star hotel (didn’t know that was possible). As the crown jewel of all new stadiums, Lusail will also host the championship game of the tournament. Lusail’s design, which resembles the region’s traditional fanar lanterns, has been described by its architects as a “golden vessel”.
2. Al Bayt Stadium
Nine of the tournament games will be played at Al Bayt Stadium, Qatar’s second largest football stadium with a seating capacity of 60,000. The stadium’s design is based on the traditional “bayt al sha’ar” tents used by the nomadic people of the Qatar region. After the World Cup is over, some of the stadium’s seats will be removed and shipped to other countries to support their sports infrastructure. Then the stadium will be completely dismantled to make way for a luxury hotel.
3. Al Janoub
Located in the city of Al Wakrah, the Al Janoub Stadium (capacity 40,000) was designed to resemble the dhow boats that have been used by the people of Qatar to enter and exit the city’s harbor for centuries. Skeptics think it looks like… something else.
Whatever you want to read into it, Al Janoub has a retractable roof that slides out to keep spectators and players cool when temperatures get too hot.
4. Ahmad bin Ali
Think of Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium like the St. Louis Gateway Arch – it marks the barrier between the city and the hinterland. The venue is on the western edge of Doha just before it gets really desert.
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When even more space was needed, the 45,000-seat stadium was built in part using materials from an old stadium that once stood on the same site. After the World Cup, Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium will be home to Al-Rayyan SC, a multi-sport club from Qatar.
5. Khalifa International
Welcome to the only football stadium in Qatar that existed before this World Cup. Khalifa International has been the football center of Qatar since 1976 but has been refurbished for this tournament with a modern cooling system and canopy (also for cooling). Other updates: fancy digital lights to make it glow at night and 12,000 extra seats to meet FIFA’s 40,000 minimum threshold.
6. Education City Stadium
Education City Stadium, living up to its name, sits amidst nine universities in suburban Doha. Dubbed the “diamond in the desert,” the stadium’s mosaic-like facade looks like it’s set with thousands of diamonds. After the World Cup, the 40,000-seat stadium will be converted into a collection of classrooms and event spaces for Qatari students.
7. Stadium 974
Stadium 974 takes its name from Qatar’s international access code as well as the number of shipping containers from which it was built. Conveniently located near the Port of Doha, the 40,000-seat venue was built to honor Qatar’s seafaring history, but will not remain there after the tournament. As the first fully demountable FIFA World Cup stadium, it will be dismantled and rebuilt elsewhere.
8. Al Thumama Stadium
If Al Thumama Stadium looks a bit like a hat, well, that’s the point: it was designed to resemble traditional gahfiya hats worn by men across the region. The stadium’s canopy will also function as a hat, providing shelter to keep temperatures cool (although an artificial cooling system will also provide an arctic blast). After the World Cup, half of the 40,000 seats will be removed to allow the construction of a luxury hotel.
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