By Gerhard Hope
The World Cup will challenge Qatar and promote competitiveness
A colleague who visited Doha recently complained about a concrete saw that started up at an inconsiderate hour close to the hotel. One can only imagine what Doha will be like when the World Cup build-up begins in earnest. At present the city is a lot like Dubai used to be before the boom years; now it is about to transformed with the advent of an infrastructure development programme the likes of which the region, and perhaps the world, has not seen for a long time.
Qatar Rail deputy CEO Geoff Mee has already called for a concerted planning effort on the part of all concerned, in order to exploit synergies and avoid duplication and wastage of valuable resources – both in terms of materials, labour and time, the latter being perhaps the most precious commodity of all, given the immovable deadline (and the added complication that Qatar has bid for the 2020 Olympics as well).
Recently I was amazed to read that Qatar’s ruling family had purchased Paul Cézanne’s The Card Players for an unprecedented $253m, the highest price ever paid for a work of art. There seems to be a general impression that Qatar simply buys whatever it needs, and this is no different when it comes to the infrastructure needed to host a memorable World Cup.
Bear in mind though that the Cézanne is likely to end up at the Qatar National Museum, alongside works by Damien Hirst, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol, for the edification of the local populace. Similarly, the World Cup build-up is but a single stage in a longer plan, the Qatar National Vision (QNV) 2030, which will benefit the entire country and the region. There is no doubt that Doha will not know what hit it when the tunnel-boring machines and construction workers begin to arrive in droves. If Dubai’s experience is anything to go by, it is going to be a dusty and noisy few years ahead.
However, key players like Mee have stated repeatedly that the planning must take into account the quality of life for Qataris during the build-up. Yes, the end goal is a better urban environment for all, but there is no need to suffer hardship needlessly on the way to achieving this.
Needless to say, there will be some sacrifice called for on the part of Qataris in terms of extra congestion during the construction programme, for example. But Qatar’s considered approach to the World Cup, which has focused on all the nuts and bolts and the precise interface with the QNV 2030 well before the first sod was turned, bodes well for the immediate future.
And the immediate excitement is palpable. Construction Week reported this week that 30 consortia have prequalified for six major contracts covering the first phase of Qatar’s $37bn integrated rail network, which is expected to go out to tender in April.
That is a staggering number, and it clearly includes the best and brightest that the global construction industry has to offer. WSP Middle East MD Tom Bower says the challenge posed by the World Cup build-up will not only stimulate innovation in the construction industry, but will promote regional competitiveness as countries seek to emulate their successful neighbours. The future is, indeed, a very bright one.
Gerhard Hope is the Editor of Construction Week.
Great insight into the future plans of Qatar; can't wait to see what the country looks like by 2020!