”Legacy” was one of the most used words in regards with Qatar organising the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the first-ever Middle East country to do so, a vast and costly project undertaken in order to underline the passion for sports and the strength of the nation.
But with few stadiums ready to host such important matches, Qatar needed to get to work and this is exactly what they did, delivering seven new venues in record time, while modernising another one to have everything ready and tailor-made for the 32 teams that will light up the competition.
One of the most exciting projects was the “Al-Thumama” Stadium, which broke ground in 2017 and was completed in October 2021, with one year before the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Located near the Hamad International Airport, one of the busiest in the world, the 40.000-seater will host eight matches, including the hosts’ one against Senegal, a fiery clash between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States of America, on game in the Round of 16 and one quarter-final.
The arena was supposed to be the first-ever underground stadium, but new FIFA regulations prompted a rethink of the arena, which was inaugurated in October, a state-of-the-art stadium which has all the needed facilities to organize such a competition.
Its reported cost of $342.5 million was not prohibitive and makes it one of the cheapest stadiums to build for the competition, yet the arena looks amazing from the outside and it is closely tied with Qatari and Arabic cultures, due to its design.
The design of Al Thumama Stadium is inspired by the “gahfiya”, a traditional woven cap worn for centuries by men across the Arab world. It is also the only FIFA World Cup venue to be designed by a Qatari architect, Ibrahim Jaidah, and was built by a Qatari-Turkish joint partnership, with contractor Al Jaber Engineering joining forces with Tekfen, Turkey’s largest construction company, which was behind the construction of 80,000-seat Ataturk Olympic Stadium and most recently the 68,000-seater Baku Olympic Stadium in Azerbaijan, which hosted the UEFA Europa League final in 2019.
“I was extremely enthusiastic when we were awarded the design for Al Thumama Stadium. Here, the aim was to create the design that would resonate not only with Qatar but with the whole region. In our culture, the gahfiya forms an important part of every young boy’s pathway to adulthood, and this rite of passage was fundamental inspiration for the design,” said Jaidah.
The “Al-Thumama Stadium” has also received a five-star rating from the Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS). The stadium’s innovative design supports its sustainability goals. During construction, 40% more fresh water was saved compared to conventional stadium developments, while recycled water is used for the irrigation of green areas. The precinct also includes a 50,000m² park, with native vegetation and almost 400 trees. In addition to the sporting facilities, it features a mosque, a boutique hotel, and retail areas.
As Qatar engaged in hosting the first-ever sustainable FIFA World Cup edition, plans have been set in motion to use the facility also after the competition, despite not having a home team which can play the games here.
First of all, the stadium’s capacity will be halved to cater to the local needs. The remaining 20,000-seat arena is set to be used for football and other sporting events. Also, a sports clinic and a boutique hotel at the venue are also ready to be opened just after the eight games at the 2022 FIFA World Cup are played.
With the scorching heat in Qatar on display also in wintertime, the arena is also one of the most innovative at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in terms of the cooling system used to keep the temperature between 18 and 24 degrees Celsius during the matches.
“Our challenge at each venue was to provide the correct technology and temperature for different areas of the stadium. At Al Thumama, the cool air is closer to the spectators. Here, we cool the air under the seats and recycle and purify it inside the venue. Al Thumama also benefits from having a completely white exterior, thanks to its design replicating the gahfiya head cap, which reflects the sun and helps to keep the stadium cool,” said Dr. Saud Abdulaziz Abdul Ghani, who has been given the task of keeping everyone at a comfortable temperature.