The Qatar World Cup is all about superlatives. It’s the first World Cup to be held in a Muslim nation and the first to take place in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, having been moved from the summer to avoid Qatar’s most searing heat.
The tournament is perhaps the most controversial in World Cup history, with Qatar — tapped as 2022 host on the same December day in 2010 as Russia was picked to host the 2018 tournament — facing a barrage of criticism over its treatment of migrant workers and approach to LGBTQ+ rights in the country.
And the Gulf nation, which is about the size of Connecticut, is the smallest country ever to host the soccer showpiece. Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter is among the critics who say a country of that size should not be hosting the World Cup. The event has typically been held in much larger nations with longer soccer histories. Immediate past hosts, in addition to Russia in 2018, include Brazil, South Africa, Germany, Japan teaming with South Korea, and France. The U.S. hosted in 1994 and is set to host again in 2026, joined in the effort by neighbors Canada and Mexico.
Undeterred by criticism, Qatar embarked on a massive project to construct World Cup stadiums, spending as much as $10 billion, according to reports. Of the tournament’s eight stadiums, seven were built specifically for the World Cup, while Qatar’s national stadium, Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, was revamped and its capacity increased to 45,857.
But with a population of just under 3 million and a soccer league that attracts only modest crowds, the country is realistic about its long-term needs and is planning to repurpose several of the venues when the World Cup is over. Even the World Cup final stadium will be reconfigured.
The World Cup winners will hoist the trophy on Dec. 18 at the stunning Lusail Stadium north of Doha. The stadium’s shape reflects the “hand-crafted bowls found across the Arab and Islamic world during the rise of civilization,” according to the tournament organizers.
Other Olympic and World Cup host countries have been left with unused and crumbling venues, but Qatar says this stadium will be transformed into a “community space” of schools, shops, sporting facilities and health clinics after the final. The National, a UAE-based newspaper, reports that the upper tiers of the stadium will be transformed into housing, while the playing field will continue to be used for sports.
The Al Bayt stadium in Al Khor City north of Doha will also be transformed after the World Cup ends. With a capacity of 68,895, the tentlike stadium hosted the World Cup’s opening game between Qatar and Ecuador. Other matches taking place at the stadium include the eagerly anticipated U.S.-England match this Friday, as well as a quarterfinal and a semifinal match. “Sustainability was paramount in Al Bayt Stadium’s development and the upper tier was designed to be removed after the tournament — allowing the recommissioning of seats,” tournament organizers note on their website.
The upper tiers will be replaced with a five-star hotel, a shopping center and a sports-medicine hospital, according to the National.
But the most unusual stadium in this World Cup is Stadium 974 in Doha, which gets its name from the international telephone code for Qatar. A temporary stadium constructed entirely of modular steel and 974 shipping containers, the stadium is described by World Cup organizers as “the first fully demountable covered football stadium.”
The containers as well as the stadium’s superstructure will be reused after the tournament, sparking speculation about where they could end up. One possibility is that the containers could be shipped to Uruguay if the country’s joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup is successful, according to reports.
Stadium 974’s shipping containers and its portside location also pay tribute to Qatar’s tradition of trade and seafaring, according to tournament organizers.
The soccer world will be eagerly watching to see if the Qatar World Cup records yet another first when one of its stadiums is reused in another part of the world.
MarketWatch has reached out to Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy with a request for comment for this story.
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