Qatar’s first World Cup stadium opened with a bang yesterday, wowing 40,000+ spectators with fireworks, cultural performances and a 20C pitch.
The venue’s launch comes five years before Qatar hosts the tournament and is seen by many as a huge step forward in 2022 preparations.
Last night’s match also saw Al Sadd clinch the Emir Cup after defeating Al Rayyan 2–1.
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim awarded the winning team its trophy. And he also cut the ribbon to mark the inauguration of the stadium.
According to QNA, he “announced in the name of every Qatari and Arab citizen” that the venue is ready to host the 2022 World Cup.
Racing toward 2022
The game was also attended by several other sporting officials. These include FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa.
FIFA will have the final say over whether the stadiums Qatar prepares to meet World Cup specifications.
It still has not decided on the number of venues Qatar needs to host the tournament. But it is expected to be around eight.
Organizers have set a 2020 deadline for all of the under-construction stadiums, but Khalifa International opened six months late.
Meanwhile, designs for three of the upcoming venues have yet to be released.
Amid pressure to complete all venues on time, Qatar also continues to be dogged by rights abuse concerns at stadium sites.
But the stress of the balancing act was put aside for at least one night during Khalifa Stadium’s reopening.
The venue has been lauded for its cooling technology, sleek design and upcoming sports museum.
It even has a “sensory room” for those who who want to watch matches without getting anxious or overstimulated.
In a statement about Khalifa International’s launch, Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SCDL), said:
“The completion of our first stadium more than five years before the Qatar World Cup begins is an important milestone that reflects our determination to deliver a tournament the entire Arab world is proud to be a part of.
As we promised in our bid, our innovative stadiums offer an unrivaled experience to fans and players alike. I’m proud we can show these off to the world and welcome fans with the hospitality this World Cup will be remembered for.”