Lusail Stadium in Qatar
Amazing things that await fans as World Cup begins tomorrow
I was in India 12 years ago when Christian Fianco, an Italian who spoke many languages reached me for a trip to Qatar. The media consultant worked for Qatar Bid Committee for the 2022 World Cup which hired experts from many areas to make their bid classic.
Qatar invited sports journalists from all over the world to see what they would offer the world if they won the right to host the World Cup in 2022. I told Fianco to route my ticket through Delhi as I was in India at the time. The Bid Committee had Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad al Thani as chairman and Hassan al Thawadi as CEO.
There was also Nasser Alkhater. At Dare, Qatar we watched them repeat the presentation they made to world football governing body, FIFA. After the presentation on May 15, 2010, we later watched the Amir Cup final between Umm Salah and Al Ryan. Alfonso Alves Martin Junior volleyed home in the 82nd minute to earn Al Ryan a 1-0 victory.
The match took place at the Khalifa Stadium, a beautiful sports complex with cooling technology. In the heat of the summer in Qatar, the cooling technology could bring the 45 degrees centigrade atmospheric temperature in the stadium to 25 degrees, making it soothing for football. At the presentation they demonstrated how they would install even a better technology in all the stadiums for the World Cup.
They assured that all the venues would be ready at least one year before the World Cup. They would build sports cities with golf, media, education and other facilities within them. Lusail would be transformed to a magnificent city with the stadium that would host the World Cup final. Al Bayt would host the opening match.
With statistics showing that Qatar was the 16th safest place in the world they exuded confidence that with first class facilities and technology to tame nature they had a chance to bring the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time. Rail lines would connect all stadiums. With 11,586 km area the world would experience such a compact World Cup that fans can watch two matches in a day.
A game ends at 4pm, for example, a fan can easily link another stadium through metro line for another match that starts at 6pm or 7pm. Capacity of some of the magnificent stadiums would be reduced and the parts donated to developing countries. There were other lofty ideas that would make 2022 a befitting carnival.
“If this was the presentation they made to FIFA the World Cup is coming here,” I said to Foussena Djagba, the leader of African journalists who sat beside me during the presentation. It was prophetic. On December 2, 2010 Qatar was announced hosts of the 2022 World Cup, beating the likes of USA, Australia, Japan and South Korea.
The Middle East country has not rested since then. While they focused on delivering the best World Cup ever, they were being jabbed over labour laws and conditions of migrant workers. They carried out far reaching reforms but the criticisms even soared as the ‘D’ day approached. Many read envy in this and lent their support. Even FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, at a time pleaded that football should be the focus. Before the recent upsurge in attacks was unprecedented energy by the Qatari people to wow the world during the games.
“There’s no year you come here you don’t see significant transformation, there’s always an addition, some huge change from your last visit, it’s unbelievable” football legend, Ruud Gullit said of Qatar. And when the World Cup kicks off tomorrow at the Al Bayt Stadium with host country, Qatar taking on Ecuador in the opening match, amazing things await the fans and players. If you have flown into Qatar, the only time you’ll board a plane again is when you’re leaving Qatar. For all the matches, you go to the venues by road or metro. You need not fly to different venues as you did in the other World Cups. That’s the first unique thing about Qatar 2022.
You need not change hotel throughout the duration of the games. You link all venues from your hotel. That’s another special thing. Your match ticket gives you the authority to bring in another fan who doesn’t have entry permit that the tickets grant you. That’s unique. The fan zones are amazing. There are plans to make them as entertaining as the stadium atmosphere.
There will be trips to the deserts for Safari rides, a taste of Arabian hospitality. There will be cultural displays and music shows at fan zones and inside the stadiums on match days. Our own Davido is billed to play in the opening ceremony.
Together with Aisha and Trinidad Cardona he composed HAYYA HAYYA (Better Together), the theme song of the 2022 World Cup. It’s a moving soundtrack that would spur everybody into action. It’s so danceable you’re bound to gyrate. The compactness of the 2022 event makes it a unique World Cup.
When we arrived Qatar in 2010, their slogan was EXPECT AMAZING. It was everywhere – banners, souvenirs etc. Their message to the World was to expect amazing things if they won the bid. They did and the slogan changed to DELIVER AMAZING. They vowed to deliver amazing World Cup.
They have gone on to deliver some of the best facilities the world would ever see at the World Cup venues. The Qatar 2022 World Cup promises to be an amazing spectacle for the players and fans. And when in an interview with visiting journalists I told Hassan Al Thawadi, the head of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy if the slogan could, again, change to EXPEREINCE AMAZING during the World Cup he smiled and said ‘’you can take that to the bank”.
And as the 2022 World Cup begins tomorrow, the world is in for amazing spectacle from the stadiums to the fan zones, to the hotels and streets of Qatar. Football takes centre stage ahead of the controversies on labour rights etc. Qatar has spent over $5billion on infrastructure alone.
That’s comfortable for a country that earns billions from gas supplies. And the world may be bound to appreciate their capacity and tag 2022 World Cup the BEST EVER. EXPERIENCE AMAZING1.