Picture taken on January 2, 2020 shows a general view inside the Education City Stadium, which was recently completed for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar’s Supreme Committee. — Reuters
Published in Dawn News on June 17th, 2020,
DOHA: Launching the third 2022 World Cup stadium, Qatar’s chief organiser said on Monday he was consulting with the English Premier League and Bundesliga to learn about how they are dealing with the coronavirus.
Hassan Al-Thawadi’s comments underscore how sports are taking into account the potential for ongoing health precautions at events, if there is no vaccine for Covid-19.
“This is an opportunity for all of us to learn from each other,” said Al-Thawadi, the general secretary of the Qatar organising committee. “We are maybe in a better position than most in the sense that we have two years ahead where we can learn from other people’s experiences.”
The Bundesliga resumed last month and the Premier League’s 100-day shutdown ends on Wednesday, with fans prohibited from stadiums in Germany and England.
The Qatar World Cup does not start until November 2022. The 40,000-capacity Education City Stadium is the third venue to be completed after the redevelopment of Khalifa International in 2017 and last year’s opening of Al Janoub.
Covid-19 restrictions meant the third stadium was launched during a digital show rather than at the venue known as the ‘Diamond in the Desert’.
“Launching the stadium now while the world is overcoming the coronavirus pandemic shows everyone that there is light at the end of the tunnel and brighter days ahead,” Al-Thawadi said.
Al-Thawadi said finishing the stadium amid the pandemic had been “a big challenge”.
But we managed to overcome it,” he said. We were able to maintain the continuity of work in a positive way, but at the same time ensure a safe and healthy environment for everyone.” The stadium will drop to a 20,000 capacity after the tournament with the surplus seats going to stadiums in developing countries.
The Al Rayyan Stadium, also with a 40,000 capacity, and the 60,000-seat Al Bayt Stadium are due to be completed by the end of this year.
Three down, five to go. We’re on track,” said 2022 World Cup chief executive Nasser Al Khater. “This is a virtual launch, not something that we ever imagined we’d do. But who would have imagined that the world would be where it is right now.”
Nasser insisted that “more than 80 percent” of the infrastructure required for 2022 was now complete.
Gianni Infantino, president of world football body FIFA, looked forward to a time when matches no longer had to be played without spectators due to the crisis.
We must not forget, health comes first. In some parts of the world, it is already possible to look ahead to better times. In others, we still have to be extremely careful, stay strong and united.
In the meantime, the new stadium in Education City reminds us that football will return and with more passion than ever,” he said.
When the time comes, we will be sharing the stands with families and friends. In this beautiful and modern stadium, we will come together to celebrate the FIFA World Cup in 2022.”
Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2020