The FIFA World Cup is a global event that captivates the entire world every four years. Held in a different country each time, the World Cup is an opportunity for fans of all nations to come together and celebrate the beautiful game. And what better place to host this prestigious event than Qatar – home of sun, sand, and soccer?
Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup amid controversy and allegations of bribery. But now that the decision has been made, Qatar is rolling its sleeves and getting ready to put on a show.
Stadiums are often seen as high art in sports, and nowhere is this more apparent than during a major international tournament such as the World Cup.
Qatar’s extravagant stadiums in and around Doha, ranging from a desert tent to a gilded bowl, display the grandeur and absurdity of this year’s World Cup.
The first time you see Al Bayt Stadium, a huge styled tent with black stripes, it’s impossible to describe how bizarre it looks. Al Bayt, the centerpiece of a manicured park 22 miles north of Doha, was built for the World Cup as an homage to old nomadic homes. It rises out of nowhere and appears to be both appropriate and out of place, gorgeous and otherworldly—an oasis in the desert, or perhaps just a mirage.
Last year, construction wrapped up on Al Bayt, one of seven brand-new stadiums constructed in and around Doha, Qatar 2022, just for the World Cup. Astonishingly, each one tops the last in sheer surprise and awe. All of these things add to the pervasive incoherence accompanying this World Cup.
Reportedly allotting $220 billion, Qatar created new buildings, districts, and even an entirely new city in preparation for the tournament. Currently, you are living in a world of superlative unreality, where everything is brand new and better than anywhere else, and the world only exists about itself.
Getting to Al Bayt by bus takes approximately an hour on game days. This World Cup is unlike any other because all of the venues can be reached by the metro system or are linked to it by free buses, making it a commuters’ event akin to the Olympics.
Fans in Russia, for instance, 2018 had to travel to Yekaterinburg, some 1,000 kilometers from Moscow, to watch a few games. The distance between Manaus and Porto Alegre was more than twice as far as four years ago in Brazil.
Take the train toward the green line’s western terminus, for instance. You will pass the Qatar National Library, which was designed by Rem Koolhaas, and arrive at Education City, a site that spans 2,900 acres and contains schools, research institutions, and incubators.
After a short distance along the trail, you will come upon the 40,000-seat Education City Stadium, which seems like the spaceship of a more advanced civilization whose occupants have a penchant for flashy material possessions.
During the day, it takes on a variety of hues as the sun travels across the sky; at night, it is lit up with lights reminiscent of a disco, which are powered by millions of diodes.
Even though only a small number of people currently live there, Lusail was crawling with crowds of people, all experiencing the same kind of sensory overload. A massive cooling plant sprouting steam right close to the stadium was partially responsible for the wind coming up from the ground.
The loudspeakers were blasting uplifting music for everyone to hear. There was a dazzling display of light in the heavens. On stilts, women dressed up as enormous red flowers paraded around the area. Someone was playing saxophone music with an Arabic flavor.