500 Days To Go Until The 2022 World Starting Whistle Blows
On November 21st 2022, the World Cup starting whistle will sound, echoing around the stands at the new Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar’s city of Al Khor. With only 500 days to go until that point, preparations can be seen across the country, and an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation grows ever stronger.
Eight new stadiums will accommodate spectators as they watch the action throughout the tournament. A new Metro and a new and modern road network, with a host of eco-friendly transport options, will enable visitors to move about the city and beyond with ease. A myriad of accommodations will be available, from standard options to boutique hotels and unique, quirky alternatives. Outside of football, a vast number of entertainment and sightseeing possibilities await - from brand new state-of-the-art museums and contemporary malls full of amusements and distractions to beautiful beaches, nature reserves, desert dunes and a host of heritage sites. Citizens and residents of Qatar alike are understandably proud of hosting the World Cup and the progress made towards the 2022 event, and they are eager to welcome fans to the country.
So, let’s take a look at progress to date and what the people have to say about it all…
For the first Arab nation to host the FIFA World Cup, the honour has presented Qatar with an array of opportunities to bring Arab culture to the world in 2022. With that responsibility, the Qataris are keen to embody their culture and heritage, and that of the Arab world, into every facet of their World Cup preparations. They have also been eager to show the world their country’s modernity, technical capabilities and advancements in sustainable development. To that end, infrastructure is modern, state-of-the-art, technically advanced and sustainable, but it also epitomises the unique culture of the Middle East and the Arab World. Take the stadiums and transportation, for example:
Each of the eight stadiums for the World Cup is unique in design and architecture. Each symbolises Qatari and Arab people and their culture. Each employs state-of-the-art technologies and Smart Tech. And, each is designed to be environmentally friendly and have a positive legacy long after the final 2022 tournament whistle blows.
In representing Qatar's history and culture, Ahmad bin Ali Stadium has been designed to emulate the flow of a sand dune; Al Bayt resembles a traditional desert tent; Al Janoub, the hull of the traditional 'dhow' boat; and Al Thumama, the 'gahfiya' – a cap worn by men across the region. Education City Stadium, designed to imitate a diamond, represents the Qatari people's resilience. The country's largest stadium, Lusail Iconic Stadium, is shaped like a golden bowl to remind visitors of traditional Arab handicrafts. Khalifa International Stadium is the only existing stadium for the 2022 World Cup; though upgraded, the arena embodies Qatar's sporting history.
For the first time in FIFA World Cup-sized stadia, each stadium is climate controlled via innovative cooling technologies. Each stadium is accessible to all. And each incorporates Smart technology, allowing visitors to be better connected and access to more time-saving applications and allowing event managers to ensure visitor safety at every event. In terms of the future, the eight stadiums were designed to be sustainable and carbon-neutral - another first for the football World Cup. Alongside high-tech carbon-neutral cooling systems, each stadium was designed and constructed in adherence with zero waste practices and with a commitment to minimising power and water usage. And, all the stadiums are mandated to achieve four-star ratings from the accredited Global Sustainability Assessment System.
Each was also designed to leave a legacy that would benefit Qatar's citizens and those of the wider world. At the end of the 2022 tournament, a total of 22 stadiums are to be constructed in developing nations around the world, using modular components of Qatar's World Cup stadiums. The 2022 tournament will also feature the first fully demountable stadium in World Cup history. Ras Abu Aboud, made from shipping containers, will be entirely repurposed after the tournament and turned into sporting facilities in Qatar and overseas.
Five of Qatar's World Cup stadiums have already been completed: Khalifa International, Al Janoub, Education City, Ahmad Bin Ali and Al Bayt. The remaining three – Al Thumama, Ras Abu Aboud and Lusail – are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021.
Alongside Qatar's stadiums, a host of other World Cup infrastructure projects, including training sites, the new Metro and new country-wide road systems are reportedly a gnat's whisker from completion. The Supreme Committee of Delivery and Legacy, the Qatari body responsible for delivering the 2022 tournament, have confirmed progress. Yasir Al Jamal, Vice Chairman, Technical Delivery Office, and Chairman, Operations Office, said Qatar's FIFA World Cup infrastructure projects had reached 95% completion. All the stadiums were set to be ready by the end of the year. He also noted:
“Since 2011, we’ve been working hard on the delivery of our tournament and national infrastructure. If we look at the metro, the airport and highways expansion, we’re in a very good place. All the stadiums will be ready by the end of the year, which gives us a whole year to test them before the event.”
And, as far as testing their facilities goes, the country's inaugurated stadiums have certainly had their mettle evaluated over recent years. Ahmad bin Ali, Al Janoub, Education City and Khalifa International stadiums have all seen action on the pitch, from local games and premier events such as the Amir Cup to continental and international matches for the AFC Champions League, the FIFA Club World Cup and the Asian 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Six of the new stadiums will also host the upcoming 2021 FIFA Arab Cup.
In line with the country's development plans and in preparation for the World Cup, Qatar has undertaken significant transport infrastructure upgrades, including a new Metro, enhanced road networks and airport expansions. The Metro has been up and running since May 2019, new expressways are, as previously stated, 95% complete, and the latest airport expansion will be ready to accommodate the million-plus visitors for the 2022 competition.
The Doha Metro is a fully automated electric train, also offers a sustainable, energy-efficient, low carbon transportation option compared to traditional methods of city travel. The overhauled road networks are also designed to create a more sustainable environment across the country by freeing up inner-city roads, decreasing traffic jams and travel times, increasing accessibility nationwide, and ultimately reducing air pollution. And, on the country's roads the number of electric buses, cars and taxis are growing, a rail-less, electric-bus rapid transit (eBRT) system driven by electric propulsion (think hybrid bus/tram system) is planned, electric charging stations, powered via solar power, are popping up in ever-increasing numbers, and a large fleet of electric scooters are available for short distances. Overall, Qatar's transport network is just another example of a modern, technically advanced and sustainable country awaiting 2022's visitors.
Qatar's size alongside its transport systems is also something to shout about at the 2022 World Cup. Qatar is the smallest country in history to host the World Cup. Qatar's relatively compact size also means that the World Cup tournament is held within a radius of fewer than 50 km. The majority of stadiums and event facilities are located in only a few host cities. The country is also home to only one airport located less than 15km from Doha centre. For the first time, ensuring that travel between stadiums, to and from the airport, and accommodation and major sights is minimal. Thanks to the Metro and the modern expressways, fans will have the chance to attend more than one match a day during the early stages of the tournament.
Nasser Al Khater, CEO of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC, was recently quoted highlighting the benefits of Qatar's size in terms of the 2022 event:
“The compact nature is probably the most positive aspect of this World Cup. For fans, they won’t have to follow their team from city to city, which means there will be a significant cost saving and means they will have time to take in the ambience and enjoy what Qatar has to offer.”
In addition, players will also benefit - each team will be allocated the same training site throughout the tournament. With long flights between matches eliminated, players should remain in peak condition.
From the top echelons of the 2022 FIFA World Cup organising committee to footballers, fans and Qatar’s kids, everyone has something positive to say about the upcoming tournament and the progress made to date.
Nasser Al Khater highlighted his country’s pride in hosting the most loved sporting event in the world with less than a year and a half to kick off:
“Five-hundred days to go means we’re getting very close. It’s been ten years in the making and this will be the biggest event that’s ever happened in the Middle East. It will bring the region together and be a moment of pride in the history of the world. As we move closer to the tournament, we are sure the excitement is going to build even further.”
Indeed, ex-Dutch footballer Ronald de Boer, who also played in Qatar in the later years of his career and who is now a Qatar Legacy Ambassador, also recognised the importance of the World Cup in Qatar:
“As the first time the tournament has come to an Arab country, it will be a special moment for Qatar and a chance to showcase the Arab region and the warmth of its people to the rest of the world. From my time living there, I know that the Middle East has some of the most passionate fans anywhere in the world, so this is a great opportunity to showcase this.”
Williams Morales, a civil engineer on the Al Janoub Stadium project – the first Qatar 2022 venue to be built from scratch - recently spoke about the tournaments progress:
“If you drive around the country, you see the progress everywhere – whether it’s stadiums, the expressways, the metro or new harbours. It’s incredible to see Qatar develop something completely unique.”
On a more practical note, former Swedish U21, now Lebanese player Robert Alexander Michel Melki was recently reported observing:
“The stadiums are really cool – all of them. They are all unique in their own way. I’ve played in some of the new stadiums and it’s really something else. Almost all of the stadiums are done now – there’s been so much progress over the last couple of years.”
And in terms of the tournament’s compact nature, Melki also noted:
“For fans, it’s going to mean that you can almost see all the games in the tournament because everybody is going to be in the same place. It’s going to be a big celebration. The teams will have their training base and be able to travel to all the stadiums within about half an hour. They will be able to focus purely on football without having to worry about travelling, which will make it more relaxing.”
To mark the ‘500 days to go’ milestone, qatar2022.qa interviewed a host of excited school children about their feelings surrounding the World Cup in Qatar:
Ten-year-old Qatari student Mohammed Al Sulaiti, from Qatar Academy, told qatar2022:
“I’m proud of my country and proud to be Qatari, and I’m looking forward to meeting different people and learning about their cultures. I’m excited to show the world our country’s culture and heritage.”
Jad Ahmed, a fourteen-year-old from Doha College, wanted to share his thoughts on Qatar’s diversity and hospitality and his favourite stadium:
“I would tell fans that Qatar is a great place with lots of diversity. It is a very accepting place and anyone can come here and have a great time. You will always feel welcome here.”
“My favourite stadium is Al Bayt. Its design is like nothing you have seen before. The design relates to Qatar, which makes it unique compared to other stadiums around the world.”
And, Vitor Cruz, 14, from Doha College, had a message for everyone thinking about visiting Qatar for the World Cup:
“It’s really beautiful – just come and enjoy the experience. It’s in a great location. Central in the world. You can just catch a quick flight and get here.”
So, 500 days and counting - the clock is ticking - Qatar and its people are ready, excited and keen to welcome all to its historic event!
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