The two-year countdown to one of the world’s biggest sporting events and being held in Qatar, the FIFA World Cup, was marked on 21 November. The event, being hosted by a Middle Eastern country for the first time, guarantees a unique experience for audiences from around the world in 2022.
One of the most distinctive aspects of this edition of the event is that travelling fans will have the opportunity to attend more than one match a day during the group stage, due to the compact nature of the country and the ease of commuting between stadiums, thanks to the impressive Doha Metro.
In fact, Qatar will host the most compact version of the FIFA World Cup ever seen in modern times. The stadiums are all in close proximity to one another, as well as amenities such as hotels and malls.
The country’s link by an ultra-modern transport system allows for short travel times for fans, players and media. Visitors will be able to stay in one location throughout the tournament with no need for any internal flights, as seen in previous tournaments. The longest distance between stadiums is 75 km (Al Bayt to Al Janoub), while the shortest is just 5 km (Education City to Al Rayyan).
Infrastructure is continuing at a fast pace, having reached 90% completion. Three completed stadiums – Khalifa International, Al Janoub and Education City – have safely hosted more than 100 matches in 2020 despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Three more tournament venues are in the final stages of construction: Al Rayyan, Al Bayt and Al Thumama. The main works at the final two stadiums – Ras Abu Aboud and Lusail – are both set to be completed in 2021.
Getting around the country is now proving to be the easiest it has ever been, and will continue to develop even further ahead of the event. The state-of-the-art Doha Metro was successfully utilised by fans during the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019, while fans were also able to travel using the super new roads and highways. Meanwhile, the expansion of Hamad International Airport will be able to cater to more than 50 mn visitors a year by 2022.
According to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, ‘2020 has surely been a challenging year for the entire world, and football was no exception. Despite the difficulties, steady progress was made in the last few months, showing yet again Qatar’s strong and continued commitment – under the leadership of the Amir, whom I personally thank – to hosting an unforgettable FIFA World Cup in two years’ time, which will no doubt build a legacy long beyond 2022.
‘Besides the very important labour reforms recently announced by the government, progress has also been made on stadium construction, along with the implementation of strict measures to protect workers’ health.’
HE Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, stated that ‘We are immensely proud of the progress we have made over the last 10 years. Both tournament and national infrastructure projects are well advanced, with everything on track to be completed well ahead of the big kick-off. Our legacy projects, meanwhile, are already having an impact on people’s lives in areas such as workers’ rights, education and entrepreneurship.’
According to HE Al Thawadi, this is an incredibly important FIFA World Cup – for Qatar, the region, and the world. Qatar 2022 will introduce billions of people to the Middle East and to the Arab world, help foster greater understanding and break down stereotypes that people may have of the country and the region. ‘We’re very excited to welcome the world in 2022.’
The schedule was announced earlier this year and features four daily fixtures for fans to enjoy. It was confirmed that the opening match will take place at the stunning Al Bayt Stadium, a 60,000-capacity venue designed to resemble a traditional tent used in the Arab world. The final game will be staged at the 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium on 18 December 2022 – Qatar National Day, a public holiday and a fitting close to what promises to be a most spectacular event.
First Bespoke FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 AircraftTM
In November, Qatar Airways, an official partner and the official airline of FIFA, unveiled a specially-branded Boeing 777-300ER painted in FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM livery to mark the two years until the start of the tournament.
The bespoke aircraft features distinctive hand-painted FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM branding to commemorate the airline’s partnership with FIFA. The inaugural route of the bespoke aircraft on 21 November was a further example of the airline’s commitment to the partnership by flying to the home of FIFA in Switzerland.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, HE Akbar Al Baker, said ‘We are tremendously excited to celebrate our partnership with FIFA and Qatar’s status as host of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM by introducing this unique aircraft to our fleet. As Official Partner and Official Airline of FIFA, we can feel the excitement building with two years to go until we will welcome the world to our beautiful country.’
More aircraft in the Qatar Airways fleet will feature the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM livery, visiting more destinations in the airline’s network. In partnership with Qatar Airways Holidays, bespoke travel packages to visit Qatar for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM will soon be launched.
Author: Sarah Palmer
This feature is an editorial from the ‘Sports’ section in Marhaba – Issue 79 (December 2020).
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