This is what will happen now with the stadiums of the World Cup in Qatar

youhe men’s soccer world championship ended in Qatar on December 18 with one of the More exciting finals in the league’s 92-year history. It was a night of heart-stopping drama that lasted into extra time, and then some, and finally ended with Argentina being crowned world champions. For Qatar, a gas-rich Gulf nation with lofty ambitions and little soccer tradition, it was a star-studded coming-out party, marking its entrance onto the world stage by showcasing its political and sporting prowess. Qatar spent some $220 billion over 12 years preparing to host the championships, shelling out $6.5 billion to build seven of the most technologically advanced stadiums in the world, and renovate another. Untold numbers of migrant workers imported to do the job died in the process. But as the athletes collect their trophies and the last fans head home, what about the stadiums now that the party is over?

Giant sporting events are often remembered for the white elephants they leave behind, massive stadiums that cost hundreds of millions to build, require millions more in annual maintenance, and are rarely, if ever, used to full capacity again. Cape Town’s 2010 World Cup stadium has become a treasured local landmark, but the occasional concert and $4-per-person tour isn’t enough to fund its ongoing repairs. Eight of the 12 stadiums built for the 2018 Russia World Cup, spread across a country with a population of 143 million spanning 11 time zones, are doing little better hosting local soccer teams and sporting events, but it is likely that none of them recover the investment cost.

The smallest country to host the World Cup since Switzerland in 1954, Qatar now has a surplus of very expensive stadiums on its hands. The country’s compact size – the farthest distance between any two stadiums is 55 km (34 miles) – was a boon for super fans eager to pack more than one game into a day, but now that all the fans are gone, seems like an exaggeration. The total capacity amounts to 426,031, almost 100,000 seats more than the entire native population of Qatar. Even accounting for the country’s 2 million migrant workers, there are enough seats for one in seven residents.

Read more: Thousands of migrant workers died in Qatar’s extreme heat. The World Cup forced a reckoning

However, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the government body in charge of organizing the World Cup, has pledged that its stadiums will not suffer the same fate as those of previous tournaments, vowing to implement ” innovative legacy plans to ensure our tournament leaves no ‘white elephant’ behind,” according to a declaration by the Secretary General of the Supreme Committee, Hassan Al Thawadi. Some of the stadiums will be dismantled and recycled. Others will shrink and some will be transformed into residential and shopping destinations.

But before Qatar pulls out the decks, another party is coming up: the Soccer Asian Cup 2023, which will likely take place in early 2024 to spare fans and players the scorching heat of a Qatari summer. China was to be the original host, but it relinquished the rights earlier this year to continue its zero-covid policy. Qatar will also host the 2030 Asian Games and is bidding for the 2036 Olympic Games, to be awarded in 2025. If successful, the Olympic bid could see refurbishment of some of the stadiums to accommodate the demands of different sports.

A stadium, at least, will not go that far. by Ras Abu Aboud stadium 974, which is made up of 974 recycled shipping containers (not a random number, that’s Qatar’s international dialing code), will be completely dismantled and shipped to a yet-to-be-decided country that needs a second. hand sport stadium. The world’s first fully removable indoor soccer stadium, the 974, could provide a template for low-impact sports arenas, eliminating white elephant syndrome altogether. The surrounding area will be turned into a waterfront business district.

The rest of the stadiums will see their capacity reduced by up to half. These surplus seats, some 170,000 in total, will be donated to underdeveloped countries in need of sports infrastructure, according to a declaration by Ali Dosari, facilities director of the Supreme Committee, “to allow[ing] promote the culture of football and to a greater extent the love of the sport around the world.”

The organizers also hope that the World Cup will spark a bit more football culture in Qatar. Qatar owns the Paris Saint-Germain football clubwhere the rivals of the final, Lionel Messi Y Kilian Mbappéthey play when not on their national teams, but enthusiasm for the Qatar Stars national league is less pronounced, He drew crowds that rarely exceed 1,500. However, local football clubs Al Rayyan and Al Wakrah will move to the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadiumwhere the USA faced Wales on November 21, and the Zaha Hadid-designed layout Al Janoub Stadiumrespectively.

Not surprisingly, he Education City Stadiumwhich is where most of Qatar’s universities and research facilities are located, will serve students and faculty from nine different universities and 11 schools.

The upper level of the tent Al Bayat Stadium, which hosted the opening match on November 20, as well as the match between the United States and England on November 25, will be removed and converted into a five-star hotel and shopping mall. A sports medicine hospital is also planned for the lower levels on the field side. Al Thumama Stadium it will receive a similar treatment, renovated with a sports clinic and hotel, while continuing to host as-yet-unspecified sporting events.

city ​​of lusail The Faberge egg of a stadium will be completely transformed into a community center and residential area, home to shops, schools, cafes and medical clinics. The upper level, overlooking the towers and construction cranes of Qatar’s fledgling architectural wonderland, will become open-air terraces for the site’s new residents.

Khalifa International Stadium, which was built by the former emir of Qatar, Sheikh Khalifa ibn Hamad Al Thani in 1976 as a gift of independence to his people, is the only stadium that will remain as it is, ready to host matches and major tournaments as Qatar doubles down on its ambition. become an international sports destination. If it does, that $6.5 billion stadium spending spree would have been well spent. If not, well, Qatar will join several other well-meaning members of the International White Elephant Club.

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