In December 2013 a team of Qatari representatives arrived to Brazil’s north-east to observe the country’s preparations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. “Regardless of the difference in size between the two countries, there are lot of elements that you can learn from, a lot of security elements, a lot of things that you do not think about,” Nasser Al Khater, communications director for the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL), told Abu Dhabi’s The National. The state also has plans to send delegations to Brazil in the summer of 2014. “A lot of the people involved that are working indirectly on our World Cup project watch it only on TV. People who are working on the highways or the metro system or security need to feel the magnitude of the event, so we make sure they are involved and come with us to these events,” Al Khater said.
The government has been modifying pre-existing construction plans to prepare for the football tournament. To coordinate this, in 2011 the government formed the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, which was responsible for managing the construction of nine new stadia, as well as training sites and other non-competition venues required by FIFA.
In January 2014 the roles of delivery, contracts and legacy were separated from actual tournament operations and since then event and operational planning has fallen under the mandate of the newly formed Local Organising Committee. The Supreme Committee was renamed by an emiri decree as the SCDL, which will focus on constructing tournament venues.
There are plans to undertake substantial renovations on three existing stadia, bringing the total competition venues to 12. In February 2012, the committee selected C2HM Hill for the programme management contract, putting the US firm in charge of coordinating government agencies and executing crucial construction projects. The committee estimates that Qatar will spend upwards of $4bn on construction and hosting costs directly related to the World Cup. In addition to these expenses, the government plans to invest over $140bn in transport infrastructure in the run-up to the event, according to international consultancy Deloitte. These projects include a new airport, a new deepwater port and the country’s first railway system.
The committee has laid out ambitious plans for new football stadia. Lusail Iconic Stadium is set have the largest gross capacity at 86,250, with others planned at Al Khor (45,330), Education City (45,350), Doha Port (44,950), Qatar University (43,520), Sports City (47,560), Al Shamal (45,120), Al Wakrah (45,120) and Umm Salal (45,120). Renovations to the stadia at Al Rayyan and Al Gharafa are set to raise each venue’s capacity from 20,000 to 40,000, while work at Khalifa Stadium will boost its capacity to 68,030.
Progress has begun to pick up in the past year. There are currently six stadia approaching the end of the design process, and the SCDL has already issued 10 project management and stadium operations consulting contracts, Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary-general of the committee, told a press conference in November 2013.
The first new-build venue project, Al Wakrah Stadium, took steps forward at the end of 2013, when the structure’s concept design, produced by AECOM and Zaha Hadid Architects, was released. Early works on the 40,000-seat stadium began in February 2014. Located 15 km from Doha, the venue is due for completion in 2018. One of the puzzles new stadium construction poses for Qatar is size. In order to avoid waste, the committee is committed to building venues that can be used after the World Cup.
Keeping in line with this commitment, Al Wakrah is designed to shrink after 2022. “The top tiers of the stadium will be modular, which will allow us to lower the capacity to 20,000 after the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” Al Thawadi told reporters in November 2013. “This is how our legacy will work. We want our venues to be useful once we are done with the World Cup. We will ship 20,000 seats to lesser developed countries.” Although work on the stadium initially started in February 2014, the main construction tender is not expected until the second quarter and major activity is not scheduled until the fourth quarter of 2014.
The authorities anticipate the tenders for other stadia will be separated by area and released steadily. “For contractor and sub-contractor appointments, we envisage a tendering process that will run continuously from 2014 to 2018, with each stadium and precinct development releasing the packages that will be required,” Yasir Al Jamal, the SCDL’s technical director, commented in an interview with Deloitte. A tender is forthcoming for the retrofit of the Al Rayyan Stadium, located in the north-east of the country. Al Rayyan was built in 2003 and already holds over 20,000 spectators. The government hired German-based Albert Speer & Partner to redesign the facility. After the addition of modular units like those in Al Wakrah, the venue’s total capacity is set to rise to 44,740.
While hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup has encouraged more projects and given the state’s sports sector a clear goal to work toward, hosting the tournament is not a one-off. Qatar’s involvement in sporting events has been gaining momentum for over a decade. The Qatar Masters has been on the PGA schedule since 1998, and in 2006 the country hosted the Asian Games, the second-largest multi-sport event after the Olympics. Since then, the number of events has grown. Between 2010 and 2013, Qatar hosted five major international sporting events, including the IAAF World Indoor Championships, the World Clubs Handball Championship and the Asian Cup football tournament. Qatar also won its bid to host the 2015 Men’s Handball World Championships (see Sports chapter).
The expansion of Qatar’s sports facilities provides ongoing opportunities for contractors not only in building venues themselves but also in maintaining and renovating them. In January 2013 Dubai-based Al Futtaim Engineering won a five-year mechanical, electrical and plumbing contract for the arena at Aspire Sports Complex. Aspire Zone is a state-owned company that runs an athletic school, sporting venues, an event management agency and a sports medical centre.
Other Sports Stadia
Non-football stadia are also on the docket. In February 2013 Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Company won a $315m contract for the Al Thumama sports hall, a 19,000-seat indoor sports arena set to host basketball, handball and volleyball matches. In June 2013 another Athens-based contractor, Aktor, won a $142m contract to build the multi-purpose Al Sadd Sports Club, an indoor sports centre with a seating capacity of more than 8500.
At first glance, building so much sports infrastructure in a country of 2m may seem superfluous. Qatari officials, however, are focused firmly on the future. While the temporary boost to the construction sector is certainly welcome, they point out several long-term benefits of cultivating more interest in sports. In addition to the economic activity sporting events generate by creating jobs and attracting visitors, sports can also have broader positive effects on lifestyles and health. The authorities recognise, however, that these are long-term projects that will likely take years to realise.
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