One of the World Cup stadiums in Qatar is named after the Persian Gulf country’s international dialing code – 974 – and another is called “Education City”. These are unusual names that hardly sound like they have any connection to football, and after the tournament many won’t.
Qatar has built seven of its eight lavish World Cup stadiums and extensively renovated another. The smallest World Cup host nation since Switzerland in 1954, Qatar has a population of 2.6 million, with just 360,000 Qatari citizens, and a limited domestic league.
It is therefore doubtful that he will need so many large venues after the tournament, especially after the last three World Cups – in South Africa, Brazil and Russia – have exposed several stadiums without long-term use. .
At least Ras Abu Aboud stage 974 will not become a white elephant, since it will disappear. The 40,000-seat arena on the port side just east of Doha was made from recycled shipping containers – 974 of them. The removable and energy-efficient stadium will make way for a commercial development along the river.
But many other stadiums will no longer host football beyond this tournament and next summer’s Asian Cup – for which Qatar was granted hosting rights after host China withdrew citing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Only two top Qatar Stars League teams – Al Rayyan and Al Wakrah – will play in their glitzy World Cup stadiums.
The majority of venues for this World Cup will see their capacity reduced from 40,000 to 20,000 after the tournament as part of a sustainability drive. Education City is 13 kilometers (8 miles) from Doha. Half the seats will go and the venue will be used by 8,000 students at nine universities and eleven schools.
So what happens to those 20,000 extra seats?
“(They) will be offered to countries that need sports infrastructure,” Ali Al Dosari, the stadium’s facility manager, said in a statement. “This will promote the culture of football and more so the love of the sport across the world.”
Qatar has pledged to give 170,000 cut seats to developing countries.
With its golden facade and capacity of 80,000, Qatar’s gleaming Lusail Stadium hosts 10 matches, including the final. It is only 20 kilometers (12.2 miles) from Doha, but no club will call this sparkling vessel. In a logic of sustainable development, its future is that of a community hub with housing, shops, schools, cafes and medical clinics. The upper level will become an exterior terracing for the new houses.
A similar fate awaits the tent-shaped Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor City, a 60,000-seat stadium hosting the opening game between Qatar and Ecuador on November 20 and shortly after a much-anticipated struggle between the England and the United States.
The plan is for the upper tier to be removed after the tournament, allowing the seats to be brought back into use again. A five-star hotel and shopping mall will be integrated into the stadium building, and a sports medicine hospital will open.
Good use of existing infrastructure, no doubt, but barely leaving a footballing legacy behind. For example, the four additional stadiums built for the 2016 European Championship in France – Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux and Nice – are used by these club teams on a long-term basis.
Al Thumama Stadium is another 40,000-seat stadium near the center of Doha whose capacity will be halved. The arena will then be used for football and other sporting events, although it is not yet clear which ones. A sports clinic and a hotel will open on site.
The 40,000 capacity Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, located 20 kilometers (12.2 miles) west of Doha in Umm Al Afaei, is home to Al Rayyan in the 12-team QSL; and the second-tier Al-Kharitiyath Sports Club.
The 40,000-seat Al Janoub Stadium, meanwhile, is where France begin their title defense against Australia on 22 November.
Al Wakrah will continue to play games here in the QSL after the tournament with a reduced capacity of 20,000 – low attendance for a top-flight team compared to the big European and South American leagues.
The Khalifa International Stadium near the center of Doha dates from 1976 and has been completely renovated to accommodate 40,000 fans. The oft-used stadium has hosted the Arabian Gulf Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and World Championships in Athletics.
“Khalifa Stadium will continue to host matches and major tournaments,” said stadium manager Ahmad Al Thani.
A recent written request by The Associated Press for further comment on the stadium’s legacy from the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy was denied.
SC General Secretary Hassan Al Thawadi has previously said the stadiums meet all sustainability criteria.
“We have recycled and reused wherever possible and implemented a wide range of energy and water efficiency solutions,” he said in a stadium document. “We’ve used sustainably sourced materials and put in place innovative legacy plans to ensure our tournament leaves no ‘white elephant’ behind.”
So while the post-World Cup football legacy itself is likely to be small, cash-rich Qatar is unlikely to face financial and logistical problems similar to those other nations have. encountered after misusing public resources.
Montreal’s Olympic Stadium that hosted the 1976 Olympics became known as a famous white elephant that took 30 years to bear fruit.
Former FIFA World Cup hosts are also continuing to pay.
After South Africa spent $1.1 billion on its 10 stadiums for the 2010 tournament, half of which were new, many were then left unused or underused. This proved to be very costly for the city councils who footed the bill and ended up draining taxpayers’ money.
The $600 million Cape Town Stadium offered spectacular views of Table Mountain, but for a steep price. It would have cost taxpayers around $3.5 million a year, but legacy issues were partially resolved by sharing with the city’s Stormers rugby team and hosting international rugby matches.
Brazil spent nearly $4 billion building and renovating venues in 2014. Four cities in Brazil were left with underutilized stadiums like the $550 million Mane Garrincha in Brasilia, which even hosted a match with only 400 spectators. Recife’s Arena Pernambuco, with a capacity of 46,000, has no team.
Russia’s $10.8 billion World Cup prize has been inflated by loss-making arenas with high annual upkeep. Of the 12 stadiums in 2018, only eight are hosting top-flight matches, usually with tens of thousands of empty seats, except for the stadiums of Zenit Saint Petersburg and Spartak Moscow.
Qatar has been heavily criticized for the physical and contractual conditions of workers, mostly from South Asia, needed to build stadiums, metro lines, roads and hotels.
The exact number of migrant workers who have died or been injured working in the often extreme heat on projects since FIFA selected Qatar as host of the World Cup in December 2010 is unclear. Definitive data has been difficult to verify or has not been released by authorities.
Qatar has set up a worker support fund that since 2020 has paid $164 million in compensation to more than 36,000 workers from 17 different countries, Human Rights Watch said in August, citing government data.
AP sportswriters James Ellingworth in Düsseldorf and Gerald Imray in Johannesburg contributed to this report.
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
This story was originally published November 5, 2022 5:50 a.m.