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Fri 14 Jan 2011 12:00 AM

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Game on

Qatar gets ready to prove us wrong.

Game on

It was always thought to be a long shot, a minnow mixing it with
the big boys, but FIFA’s decision to award Qatar the World Cup has changed everything.

The sheer scale of investment is difficult to fathom, US$42.9
billion on roads, US$3 billion on railways, a new causeway linking the country with
Bahrain and US$9 billion for
the extension of the new Doha
International Airport.
Then there are the football stadiums, the Al Rayyan, with a high-definition TV screen
built into the facade and the Doha Port Stadium, which draws water from the Gulf
and jets it over the roof to aid cooling. All but two of these will continue to
serve Qatar’s
domestic league after the tournament finishes.

For our cover story this month, I spoke to the architect who
helped design the stadiums, and while he was obviously excited, there was just a
hint a trepidation in his voice as he outlined the plans going forward. Putting
together the designs was one thing, now they had to go off and figure out how to
make them reality.

It was only a hint because the Qatar 2022 bid was not a pie-in-the-sky
scheme to wow FIFA and the world. Much like the infrastructure work, many of the
stadiums were due to go ahead anyway. Qatar intended to continue growth with
or without the World Cup.

For evidence of this you only have to look at the amazing projects
due to come online in 2011, Qatar Energy City and
the new high-rise district near Doha
corniche. It is common knowledge that Qatar has one of the most dynamic construction
industries in the Gulf.

But another comment made by the architect from Albert Speer and
Partners, the stadium designers, is that everything Qatar has planned has to go ahead in
order to make it ready for the tournament. In terms of construction, Qatar has arguably
the biggest challenge of any World Cup host yet, and as it stands at the end of
2010, it is nowhere near ready.

That said, of all the bold plans outlined by Qatar over the last
few months, few are ideas alone. The work on the transport infrastructure and the
airport has already begun, and the cooling technique that will be employed in the
stadiums has already been devised and tested in a 500-seater model facility in Doha.

Created by engineering giant Arup, the stadium demonstrated to
FIFA during its visit to Qatar
that despite 44 degree heat outside, it is capable of achieving 23 degrees on the
pitch, while targeting carbon neutrality through pumping energy into the national
grid all year round, and drawing from it on match days.

It’s been a common complaint in the last week or so that FIFA’s
decision to award Qatar
the right to host the finals ‘was all about money’, and in a funny way that criticism
rings true. The country has proven that it is ready to invest billions, FIFA has
simply given them a deadline.

Orlando Crowcroft, is the editor of Middle East Architect.

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