The Legacy of Stadiums
Beyond World Cup 2022
With criticism and negative media coverage rife on Qatar and its superfluous “football dreams”, the real picture is often forgotten. That the Gulf population has a passion for the game has become irrelevant; what seems more imperative is its lack of soccer excellence, and that “its record of producing premier athletes in any sport is sparse”.
Does that make football a game to be played and enjoyed only by the West while countries in the Middle East accept their loss and be denied a fair chance at hosting and even dreaming of ever playing the game because its nationals are but a small percentage of its already tiny population? And we all thought that the best global espousals are those that bring countries together in a spirit of sportsmanship. While the question of Qatar hosting the World Cup in 2022 is
still being reassessed, for the bribery allegation that shrouds FIFA's decision, we go ahead and contemplate on the world stadiums that will be built, the challenges the country has to overcome to finally complete its mammoth infrastructure updates for the games and beyond, wrapping up with the future of stadiums in general.
In the World Stadium Congress held in Doha a few weeks back, the CEO of ASTAD Project Management, Ali Bin Nasser Al Khalifa had strongly stated that “the country had a responsibility to fulfil, not just to be accountable but also to send a strong message that we are responsible enough”. He said that stadiums are difficult buildings to construct; large dead investments to build and maintain when compared to their usage and revenue generation. The challenge for stadiums worldwide was to make it relevant much beyond the event it was hosting.
“To have a business plan ahead so that there is sustainability in the usage of the building is vital,” he said. “The FIFA World Cup 2022 is not only an important global event; it also represents an opportunity to provide a long-term legacy within the built environment, the sporting community and the general population.”
The Arena Fonte Nova in Brazil that hosted many matches during the FIFA 2014 World Cup is a public-private joint venture and the complex also houses a panoramic restaurant, museum of football, car parks, shops, hotels and a concert hall; a perfect example of taking the stadium beyond its basic need.
Diogo Taddei, Architecture Manager, AECOM Global Sports Group was one of FIFA's Stadium Technology Consultants for the Brazil 2014 World Cup and he speaks of how legacy was vital to the development of Rio from the outset. “Our vast experience in the Olympics and mega events meant we had a clear understanding of the games' requirements but were a little less clear on the legacy for the city of Rio,” says Taddei. “Therefore, we began by getting an understanding of the gaps between both the game and legacy modes and trying to provide temporary cost-effective solutions of the actual games.”
He feels that Qatar should also seek its legacy planning first in order to understand what else needs to be done for the 2022 Games and the longer-term use for the sites.
“We look at the 2030 Vision as a mandate, and the 2022 World Cup has become an accelerating factor to deliver that. We know that Qatar is delivering a huge amount of highly complex projects to a deadline that has never been attempted before.”
ALI BIN NASSER AL KHALIFA CEO ASTAD Project Management
“It wasn't until recently that planners, entrepreneurs, clubs, stadium owners and operators began to think of the stadium as a “player” with an important role in the local community and vicinity.”
DIOGO TADDEI Architecture Manager, AECOM Global Sports Group
The ultimate challenge is how to reduce the ecological footprint for the venue as a whole. It is therefore important to take a holistic approach to sustainability when developing the stadium. “This approach should consider not just the design and construction of the venue but also its operations, and incorporate ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during a tournament or other event,” says Taddei.
Qatar is also giving due consideration to legacy and Taddei points to Al Wakrah stadium currently being designed by AECOM in collaboration with Zaha Hadid Architects. He says, “Throughout the design, its long-term legacy was of the utmost importance,” he says.
After the World Cup, the stadium will be reduced from 40,000 to 20,000 spectators seating. The east and west upper stands offer opportunities for additional functional uses such as hospitality or convention facilities to the wider community. A wide range of community facilities will be available with everyday usage in addition to event days at the stadium, these include mosque, school, hotel, wedding hall, vocational training centre and retail space. A range of varied new parks and landscape spaces will be provided as part of the overall master plan. The new parks will provide a range of outdoor recreational spaces for everyday usage.
According to Taddei, Qatar has the advantage of starting from scratch so it is able to apply best practice gained from experience in past events to ensure that both the venues and the event itself is a success.
While minimising the carbon footprint and energy consumption is certainly in vogue there is another aspect to which Taddei draws our attention to – the urban role of stadiums. “It wasn't until recently that planners, entrepreneurs, clubs, stadium owners and operators began to think of the stadium as a “player” with an important role in the local community and vicinity,” he says.
Stadia are now being used as a catalyst for urban regeneration of derelict areas and fomenting the development of local economies. “The stadium has therefore taken on other activities outside of its primary purpose by hosting other events, not necessarily sports, and increasing its use year round,” says Taddei.
Project management rules
ASTAD project management which oversees 163 projects with a combined value of QR126 billion, ($34.6 billion) will be pivotal in managing the construction process of many important stadiums within Qatar.
“Looking forward, the Lusail and Al Saad Multipurpose Halls are an exciting challenge for us,” says Al Khalifa, “Qatar will have the honour of holding the International Handball Championship in 2015 in January. For that, Qatar has started the construction of three main sports halls and ASTAD is building the largest and most sophisticated of these halls which are at Lusail and Al Saad.”
ASTAD is also currently managing the Health & Wellness Stadium, a World Cup venue at Education City. The stadium will reflect the three pillars of education, science and research, and community development. The stadium is designed to be a lively focal point for staff and students
as well as their main sports facility, housing classrooms, offices, conference rooms, health clubs and spaces catering for a variety of sporting activities.
“As a sports facility, it also promotes health in the Education City community. This will contribute to a healthier society and a healthier Qatar,” he says.
Challenges are not unique
Taddei agrees that the weather conditions in the Middle East are a concern. He says, “If the World Cup is played in summer it will be a challenge for the event. If the World Cup is played in winter, the challenge is set for legacy. Regardless of the time when the tournament is held, the issue of user and spectator comfort is very important but it's not a challenge that's unique to the Middle East. For example, very cold regions must address visitor comfort in the freezing winter months.”
Closer to the event, when all the resources come together for the finishing stages of stadiums, roadwork and rail work, the challenges will be multi-fold. Al Khalifa says, “We are not the first emerging nation to hold such a large-scale event and we will be utilising all available resources to enable us to handle the volume of materials and workers. We are committed to doing this in the most efficient way possible for the benefit of our nation.”
One fact that the international media gets wrong is that the development and “the more than QR728 billion ($200 billion)” of infrastructure development is all for the 2022 World Cup. Even before the country started dreaming of the World Cup, a group of planners had drafted the QNV 2030 and most of what we see now is part of this larger plan.
Al Khalifa continues: “The World Cup is part of a journey for Qatar. Qatar is not just going to stop developing projects after the 2022 tournament ends, it is an important milestone in the journey to the 2030 Vision, which was planned before the country even won the World Cup.”
Al Saad Multipurpose Hall
Health & Wellness Facility; a World Cup
venue at Education City
Seating at Al Wakrah stadium by Zaha Hadid will be reduced from 40,000 to 20,000 after the
Lusail Multipurpose Hall; one of the World Cup 2022 venues