FIFA World Cup 2022: Qatar inaugurates Al Bayt Stadium, Stadium 974 stages first match

The Al Bayt stadium becomes the sixth FIFA World Cup 2022 venue to be unveiled; it will play host to nine matches in the quadrennial extravaganza.

Santadeep Dey
The Al Bayt stadium is modelled on the bayt al sha’ar - traditional nomadic tents in the Gulf region. - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

With less than a year to go for the FIFA World Cup 2022, Qatar on Tuesday threw open the doors of the Al Bayt Stadium on the occasion of the Arab Cup opener between the host nation and Bahrain.

The alluring stadium, which will play host to the opening Qatar 2022 game as well, pays homage to Middle Eastern hospitality, having been modelled on the bayt al sha’ar - traditional nomadic tents in the Gulf region. The venue’s lightweight canopies aid its artificial cooling technology, in keeping with the idea of the conventional Arabic tents to ward off the desert heat.

Grandiose ceremony

While His Highness the Emir of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani announced the tournament open, FIFA president Gianni Infantino, too, could be seen enjoying the light and sound show during a grandiose opening ceremony, complete with 3D hologram projections and live and virtual performances by several celebrities including the legendary Lebanese singer, Fairuz.

“Let’s celebrate football and unite the world together,” said Infantino ahead of the match, in which the reigning Asian champion Qatar survived a last-minute scare to fend off the visitor 1-0, courtesy a screamer from Abdulaziz Hatem in the 69th minute.

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Located in the northern city of Al Khor, 46km north of Doha, the Al Bayt Stadium has 60,000 seats. It is going to be the second busiest venue during the quadrennial showpiece next year, hosting nine matches up to the semifinals.

The capacity of the arena, delivered by the Aspire Zone Foundation, a stakeholder with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, will almost be halved post the 2022 tournament to accommodate a five-star hotel, shopping centre, food court, gym and multipurpose hall. It will also incorporate a branch of a leading sports medicine facility within its premises.

First of its kind

The 40,000-seater Stadium 974 also hosted its first game on Tuesday, where the United Arab Emirates beat Syria 2-1 in an Arab Cup fixture. The venue gets its name from the country's international dialling code (+974) and is made from 974 shipping containers. It is the first fully demountable arena in the World Cup's history.

Lusail Stadium, the venue of the FIFA WC 2022 final and the only arena yet to be officially unveiled, will be inaugurated in January 2022.

(The writer is in Qatar on an invitation by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy)