The World Cup in Qatar is all about superlatives. It is the first World Cup to be held in an Islamic country and the first in winter in the Northern Hemisphere, having been moved from summer to avoid the hottest temperatures in Qatar.
Perhaps the most controversial tournament in World Cup history, Qatar – which hosted 2022 on the same December 2010 day when Russia was chosen to host the 2018 tournament – faces a barrage of criticism over its treatment of migrant workers and its approach to it. LGBTQ+ rights in the country.
And the Gulf state, which is about the size of Connecticut, is the smallest country ever to host a soccer tournament. Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter is among the critics who say a country of this size should not be hosting the World Cup. This event is usually held in much larger countries with a long history of football. Previous hosts, in addition to Russia in 2018, include Brazil, South Africa, Germany and Japan teaming with South Korea and France. The United States hosted in 1994 and is scheduled to host again in 2026, joining the efforts of neighboring Canada and Mexico.
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According to reports, Qatar, undeterred by the criticism, embarked on a massive project to build World Cup stadiums, spending as much as $10 billion. 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 renovated and its capacity increased to 45,857.
But with a population of less than 3 million and a soccer league that only draws modest crowds, the country is realistic about its long-term needs and plans to repurpose many stadiums when the World Cup is over. Even the World Cup final stadium will be reconfigured.
The World Cup winners will lift the trophy on December 18th at the stunning Lusail Stadium, north of Doha. The shape of the stadium reflects the “handcrafted vessels found in the Arab and Islamic world during the rise of civilization,” according to tournament organizers.
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Other Olympic and World Cup host countries have been left with unused and dilapidated venues, but Qatar says this stadium will be transformed into a “community space” of schools, shops, sports facilities and health clinics after the final. The National newspaper, which is based in the United Arab Emirates, reported that the upper layers of the stadium will be converted into housing, while the stadium will continue to be used for sports.
Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, north of Doha, will also be converted after the World Cup. With a capacity of 68,895, the tent-like stadium hosted the opening match of the World Cup between Qatar and Ecuador. Other matches at the stadium include the eagerly anticipated USA game on Friday, as well as the quarter-final and semi-final match. Tournament organizers have noted on their website that “Sustainability has been paramount in the development of Al Bayt Stadium, and the top tier is designed to be removed after the tournament – allowing seating to be reinstated”.
According to The National newspaper, the upper tiers will be replaced by a five-star hotel, a shopping center and a sports medicine hospital.
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But the most unusual stadium in this World Cup is the 974 stadium in Doha, which derives its name from the international telephone code for Qatar. A temporary stadium built entirely of modular steel and 974 shipping containers, the stadium was described by World Cup organizers as “the first fully demountable covered football stadium”.
The containers as well as the stadium superstructure will be reused after the tournament, prompting 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.
The shipping containers at Stadium 974 and its port location honor Qatar’s tradition of trade and seafaring, according to tournament organizers.
The football world will be watching with bated breath to see if the World Cup in Qatar sets another precedent when one of its stadiums is repurposed in another part of the world.
MarketWatch has reached out to Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy to request comment on this story.
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