Pitch perfect

Will there ever be a World Cup held in the Middle East? Designs for five new stadia have been released to help Qatar’s 2022 bid.

Al Gharafa Stadium
Al Gharafa Stadium
Al Gharafa Stadium
Al Gharafa Stadium
Al Khor Stadium
Al Khor Stadium
Al Shamal Stadium
Al Shamal Stadium
Al Rayyan Stadium
Al Rayyan Stadium
Al Wakrah Stadium
Al Wakrah Stadium
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Could the FIFA World Cup really be held in this part of the world? Many people state the obvious: that the competition is traditionally held in June and July, which in the Middle East would be far too hot for both the players and the fans. But the obvious hasn’t discouraged Qatar from placing a bid for the 2022 event, the results of which will be announced on December 2 in Zurich, Switzerland.

In fact, the small matter of the weather has not deterred FIFA president Joseph Blatter from pledging his support either. On a short visit to Doha recently on the invitation of the Qatar Football Association, Blatter said: ‘The Arab world deserves to host the World Cup. We are now nearing the end of the bidding process for the World Cups in 2018 and 2022, and Qatar is the only country bidding from the Middle East.’

In comments published by Gulf Times, he added: ‘I was an advocate of FIFA’s rotation policy. It was important to bring the World Cup to North America and Africa. Now I strongly feel that the World Cup should come to Qatar.’

It would seem that the FIFA president and Qatar agree, and last month the country unveiled the initial stage in preparing itself to host such an event – by building three stadia and upgrading two more. The plan would be to use solar technology to power a carbon-neutral system that will cool the venues and make sure the temperature at the games does not rise above 27°C. If Qatar’s 2022 bid is successful, the event would be the world’s first cooled outdoor global sporting event.

‘These plans show just how serious, innovative and focused we are,’ said Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, chairman of the Qatar 2022 bid. Hassan Abdulla Al Thawadi, the bid’s chief executive, added that the new stadiums would be linked via a new metro system and integrated into the bus network. Is the project ambitious or the stuff of science fiction? We decided to take a closer look at the proposed stadia in order to find out.

Al Gharafa Stadium
This is the first of the existing venues that would be revamped, expanded from its current 21,175 capacity to a whopping 44,740. The ribbon effect of many different colours is said to represent the different nations that have come together as a result of the competition. The idea is that when the World Cup reaches its close, the stadium will be returned to its original format.

Al Khor Stadium
Instantly recognisable (should it be built) by its distinctive ‘seashell’ design, the Al Khor Stadium will have a flexible roof to provide extra shading over the pitch for players. Set in its own area to the north-east of Doha, it will even offer views over the Arabian Gulf. Capacity is 45,330, but this can be scaled back to 25,500 by removing the modular add-ons at the end of the competition.

Al Shamal Stadium
As a nod to Arabic heritage, the proposed Al Shamal design would take influence from the traditional dhow, although rather than wood it would be modular segments that are used to up capacity to 45,120 from the 25,500 it will be after the event has concluded. It will be located on the coast, and at the end of the Bahrain-Qatar Friendship Bridge, which will have been completed by 2022.

Al Rayyan Stadium
Another existing venue that will receive a facelift, should the World Cup come to Qatar. The stadium at Al Rayyan currently seats 21,282, but this will be taken up to 44,740 for the competition. One of its main attractions will be what the designers call its ‘media façade’, a 420,000 sq ft membrane that can be used to project news updates, scores and game highlights, inside and out, during the event.

Al Wakrah Stadium
This would be the most ambitious of the projects announced so far, with the 45,120-seater stadium to be built as part of a larger sports complex that would house an aquatic centre, spa, training facilities and a mall. This would become one of the key sports venues in Qatar, located by the upcoming Doha Expressway, and open every day of the year for tourists and sports fans alike.

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