In December 2010 Qatar beat competition from the US, Australia, Japan and South Korea to become the venue for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. In so doing it became the first Arab country and the smallest nation to ever be awarded the honour. Yet what Qatar may lack in size it is more than making up for in investment and planning for this momentous occasion.
Indeed, in February 2017 Ali Shareef Al Emadi, minister of finance, told international press that Qatar was spending around $500m a week on capital projects such as stadiums, training camps, athlete villages and infrastructure projects such as roads, hospitals and transport hubs, necessary to make the country ready for 2022. This was, he said, a level of expenditure that was expected to continue for at least the next three to four years. The tournament has not been immune from the general budget cuts, however, with organisers seeking greater efficiencies. “Doha Metro and other projects directly related to World Cup 2022 are boosting the construction sector as they are time-sensitive. However, payments are often delayed beyond the stipulated contract dates and this affects the cash flow of the projects,” Omar Bahgat, regional manager of Engineering Consultants Group, told OBG.
Nonetheless, according to Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary-general of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL), some $8bn-10bn in infrastructure spending on projects entirely specific to the World Cup is still going ahead. This expenditure is also being undertaken with an eye to the future, as sustainability becomes more of a priority in the construction sector overall (see analysis). Green building and modular structures, the size of which can be altered to suit future demand, are thus very much part of the programme. This goal is likely to be achieved with the help and innovation of global companies. “The construction sector should witness more cooperation between local and international companies because some major projects for the World Cup may require particular expertise and resources,” Ghassan Oueijan, managing director of Nakheel Landscapes, told OBG.
The most notable and iconic of the tournament’s structures are its stadia. FIFA, the global football organising body, is still to declare how many of these are required, as the number of teams in the tournament has yet to be decided. However, the SCDL has estimated that eight stadiums will be the final figure.
North of the capital in Al Khor City, Al Bayt Stadium began to take shape in late 2016, with the site reporting 40% completion in terms of structural work by April 2017. The stadium sits at the heart of a 1m-sq-metre site, which also includes a hospital, a mall and a park. Work on the surrounding area was reported to be 25% complete in April 2017. The giant, tent-like stadium has some unique engineering features. When its retractable roof is shut, special cooling technologies will bring down the temperature inside, making the stadium usable in summer. The 60,000-seat venue has a modular structure so that sections can be removed after the World Cup, reducing capacity to 32,000, with the unused pieces to be shipped abroad to countries lacking in stadium infrastructure. A completion date of fourth-quarter 2018 has been set, and the stadium is being delivered by the Aspire Zone Foundation. Contractors include Salini Impreglio, Galfar and Cimolai.
The same date has been given for a second stadium outside of Doha, on the outskirts at Al Wakra. This is a 40,000-seat venue, designed by the late Zaha Hadid, the renowned Iraqi-British architect, and US-based AECOM. It includes sports halls and pitches, restaurants and retail areas along with its central pitch. Inspired by the sails of a dhow, or traditional sailboat, its capacity will also be halved after the tournament. Project contractors include MIDMAC and PORR Qatar.
Not all the stadiums are entirely new, with Khalifa International Stadium, which opened in 1976 in Al Rayyan, being given a major facelift for the World Cup. The 40,000-seat arena was the venue for the 2006 Asian Games, among other events, with the Aspire Zone Foundation now redeveloping the facility. The designer is Dar Al Handasah, with MIDMAC and Six Construct as the contractors. The stadium is adjacent to the existing Aspire Academy and the Aspetar facility, a global leader in sports and orthopaedic medicine. It will also house the new 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum and a host of new facilities. The upgrade was completed in May 2017.
A new Al Rayyan stadium is also being built on the site of the old Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium. Another 40,000-seat venue, it forms the centre of a new district, with its undulating facade reminiscent of sand dunes and Qatar’s natural landscapes. The stadium will also be reworked after the World Cup, with half of its capacity being donated. The stadium is expected to be complete in the first quarter of 2019, with Manco International General Contracting as the contractors.
A fifth facility, the Qatar Foundation Stadium, is under construction at Education City. This will have 40,000 seats, which will later be reduced to 25,000, and takes advantage of the existing cultural, scientific and educational infrastructure in the area. The complex will include other sports facilities, along with a health clinic, hotels and shops. Expected completion is set for the fourth quarter of 2019, with contracts awarded to RFA Fenwick Iribarren Architects and Astad Project Management. Cyprus’ Joannou & Paraskevaides has been selected as the construction company.
The most recent of the key venues to break ground is the 92,000-seat Lusail Stadium, in the new city being constructed north of Doha. The venue is expected to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the World Cup. Qatar’s HBK Contracting and China Railway Construction Corporation have been chosen as the contractors, and in April 2017 work began on the site. London-based Foster + Partners are the architects.
Two more stadiums are still in the design phase. The first will go up at Ras Abu Abboud, east of the Doha city centre, with a 40,000-seat capacity. International architecture firm Populous has been commissioned to work on the project. The second will be located at Al Thumama, and be another 40,000-seat capacity venue.
Play It Cool
All of the stadiums are located at future metro stops and include cooling technologies. Concerns around high temperatures have led the tournament to be rescheduled for winter 2022. All of the stadiums are being designed and built with sustainability in mind. This includes design and construction specifications that minimise power and water use.
The cooling systems will work on renewable energy, with Qatar leading in the development of these technologies. The SCDL has organised a regular competition, Challenge 22, to encourage ideas for sustainability and energy efficiency in the design and construction of the new stadiums. This approach has also been used to design cooling helmets for construction workers, with labour health and safety being a major concern for contractors and the SCDL (see overview). Some 10,000 people are now working on World Cup projects, with this figure expected to peak at 36,000 by 2018.
The modular nature of the venues demonstrates an awareness of legacy issues, with the ability of the designs to contract being an important feature that will likely be taken up by other tournament hosts in future. The associated infrastructure around the stadiums aims to keep people coming to these sites long after the World Cup is over. In the meantime, the tournament represents a major opportunity for design, construction, project management and facility management services. While many of the major contracts for the stadia have gone, the next few years will also see a likely surge in small and medium-sized contracts.
“A turning point will likely come after the World Cup in Russia in 2018, when FIFA then moves to Qatar and begins a very close examination of progress,” Jack Overkamp, managing director for Arcadis Qatar, told OBG. This in turn should give a fuller picture of Qatar’s infrastructure needs, with contractors that have a degree of flexibility able to benefit from this wave of activity. This is likely to create a pick-up in the construction sector, helping offset any tailing off in activity elsewhere.