It is the first time that a Middle Eastern country has hosted a World Cup. In 2022, between November 21 and December 18, the FIFA World Cup will take place in Qatar. The staggering budgets illustrate the desire of this gas emirate to attract thousands of spectators – who will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19 – and to improve its image internationally.
With a little over a year before the World Cup, Qatar continues to build. Six new stadiums have been inaugurated or are still under construction, and two have been modernized for the occasion.
VIP suites, jacuzzis in the changing rooms …
In Al Khor, on the northeast coast of the emirate, work on the Al Bayt stadium has been completed. The venue is due to open on November 30, when it will host spectators for the first time, for the opening match of the Arabian Cup.
The gargantuan stadium, shaped like a traditional Bedouin tent, can accommodate up to 60,000 spectators. “It’s a stadium that reflects the culture of Qatar […] The opening ceremony will start here with the very first match ”, explains at the microphone of 8 p.m. Majid Al Bader, director of the project.
The stadium is like the rest of the Qatari investments for this World Cup. Directly integrated into the stands, VIP suites, to accommodate the most fortunate spectators. “We have 96 suites like these all around the stadium”, details the project director. For footballers, the luxury changing rooms are equipped with SPA and Jacuzzis.
Air conditioning is a first for a World Cup
But the main innovation, strongly criticized by environmental associations, is that the stadium is fully air conditioned. In a country where the mercury can rise to 45 degrees, the temperature in the stadium can be set to “20 or 16 degrees”, explains Saud Abdul Ghani, engineer at the University of Qatar. “Air conditioning is a first for a World Cup”, he rejoices.
The small emirate, desperate to succeed in its World Cup, has even developed for three years a lawn capable of withstanding the heat of the desert. “This grass is perfect for stadiums because it corresponds to the standards of Fifa and to the game of footballers”, underlines Yasser Al Mulla, director of landscape and turf.
The working conditions of workers strongly criticized
Qatar, which has invested more than 160 billion euros in the competition, to the tune of 500 million per week, hopes to attract internationally. “There are more and more people who are interested in Qatar, and it is thanks to the World Cup”, summarizes a student. “I am very happy to receive visitors and introduce them to our culture”, abounds her friend.
However, this “soft power” operation has its limits. Since the beginning of the Pharaonic construction sites, thousands of migrant workers have died, due to disastrous working conditions, regularly pointed out by NGOs. While several federations have also denounced violations of labor law, Qatar, frightened by threats of boycott, has pledged to make reforms and guarantee the safety of workers.
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