KEIR RADNEDGE in DOHA —- Seven down, one to go. Qatar has lined up almost all its stadia projects for you-know-what. It’s almost not news. The plus for Qatar from the wrangle over the timing of the 2022 World Cup is that, imperceptibly, the debate has shifted from ‘if’ Qatar will stage the finals to ‘when’.
Back in notorious December 2010, when Qatar and its rivals took to the presentation stage in Zurich before the FIFA exco vote, bid leader Hassan Al-Thawadi and his team had their vision of the 12 stadia demanded of them – nine new and three upgraded at a cost of $3bn.
Since then pragmatic common sense has cut in. Qatar has no need to scatter its World Cup largesse around half a continent, like a Brazil or a Russia.
In any case, most of the stadia will either be scaled down or dismantled and given away.
With the World Cup safely won, a review early last year by the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy suggested that eight stadia would be sufficient. Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s secretary-general and World Cup overseer, thinks so too.
This week Qatar confirmed plans for two more stadia – one at the Qatar Sports Club in Dafna/West Bay and another near the majestic new Hamad International Airport – to bring the confirmed tally of venues up to seven.
Hence probably just one to go before a ‘final staging’ proposal goes to FIFA before the end of the year with ratification due from the executive commttee next March – the same meeting, possibly, which will also decide the date.
The identities of the two latest venues were indicated by Ghanim Al Kuwari, the Qataris’ competition venues director, at a conference in Doha.
Work would start in the second quarter of next year, following through on work begun on 64 training camps, FIFA headquarters, the international broadcast centre and variable-standard provision for 60,000 hotel rooms.
The ‘new two’ support the change of plan on stadia provision since neither had been mentioned in the original proposal.
Initially the new stadia were to be at Al Wakrah, Doha Port, Al Shamal, Al Khor, Umm Slal, Sports City, Lusail, Qatar University and Education City. The redeveloped trio were those at Al Gharafa, Al Rayyan and Khalifa International.
Five of these had been confirmed: Al Wakrah, Al Bayt Al Khor, Al Rayyan, Khalifa International and Education City. Designs have been released for only two: the modular 40,000-capacity Al Wakrah and Al Bayt Al Khor (60,000) which are expected to be the first of the new-builds completed, by 2018.
Some work is already under way on the 38-year-old Khalifa International stadium though the full extent has yet to be clarified. As for Al Rayyan, the original upgrading concept has been scrapped. The venue is to be razed and rebuilt from scratch.
The Supreme Commitee has undertaken that all the projects will conform to the new standards laid down for construction workers after an outcry over conditions from human rights organisations and internatiomnal trades unions.
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