WE LIVED IT, WE WON IT

A spec­ta­tor's per­spec­tive of the Qatar Hand­ball Cham­pi­onships 2015.

Qatar Today - - SPORT - Photography By Ken Clark

Over the course of two weeks, we had at­tended as many matches as we could man­age with­out pass­ing out from ex­haus­tion and sleep de­pri­va­tion. We sat in ev­ery part of the sta­dium–from the me­dia boxes and the VIP seats to the sky­boxes and the econ­omy seats at the top­most lev­els from where the play­ers look like tiny stick fig­ures. And we saw ev­ery kind of match; ones that were de­cided in the last two sec­onds of the game and those that were sealed in the first 15 min­utes (and yet, some of the best plays we saw were made by teams that had ab­so­lutely no chance of win­ning). And we can as­sure you, hand­ball is just as ex­cit­ing and adren­a­line-fu­eled no mat­ter where you sit, who you sup­port and how tired you are. Who knew!

Qatar Hand­ball 2015 was, for the most part, a suc­cess. Lo­sail Mul­ti­pur­pose Hall and Ali Ha­mad bin Al At­tiya Arena are both world-class. Not only is Lo­sail gor­geous to look at (es­pe­cially so when all lit up and bathed in fire­works), it has top-notch fa­cil­i­ties. Iraqi artist Ah­mad Al Bahrani's sculp­tures in the sta­dium premises are Qatar's new­est public art com­mis­sions. And apart from some con­ges­tion at the Round­about past the Doha Golf Club which meets the road from Duhail, the traf­fic was never clogged at the sta­dium it­self. It was a feat. Es­pe­cially for some­one who had been

drop­ping in from the first day of the cham­pi­onship, and could see the num­bers swell ev­ery day even as the Qatari team made steady progress in the game. Dur­ing the Su­per 8 and quar­ter-fi­nal matches, the sta­dium was a sea of white thobes. It was quite a sight, one you had to see to be­lieve. The vol­un­teers, the or­ange-clad war­riors, were of course the back­bone of the games, al­ways smil­ing, help­ful, and in high spir­its.

Qatar's stunning progress into the Fi­nal Four played no small part in drum­ming up sup­port­ers for the game. In the early days, we'd get emails from the Min­istry of In­te­rior invit­ing us to bring our fam­ily and friends to the Qatar games, as­sur­ing us free en­try. By the end, even peo­ple with paid tick­ets were un­able to get in. We were also left a bit shell-shocked (pleas­antly, of course) at the big names that were roped in for post- match en­ter­tain­ment. The or­gan­is­ers have truly out­done them­selves and maybe de­lib­er­ately so, to show the world that Qatar can and will put on a good show come 2022.

Now we have to talk about the bad. Of course, there were in­evitable prob­lems with the tick­ets. Be­tween open in­vi­ta­tions to walk in for free (Qatar Air­ways, for in­stance, had en­cour­aged their em­ploy­ees to show up, present their com­pany IDs and col­lect tick­ets on the day of the match) and Qatar's un­ex­pected win­ning streak, it was prob­a­bly hard to pre­dict the kind of crowd that would throng to the sta­di­ums (es­pe­cially when Arab teams like Tu­nisia and Egypt were play­ing). What was un­con­scionable was turn­ing away peo­ple who had valid tick­ets just be­cause you wanted to fill the sta­dium and fill it with spe­cific kinds of peo­ple. Yes, the home team was do­ing

Dan­ish player Hansen scores against Saudi Ara­bia

The Qatari cheer­ing squad

A Qatari cheer­ing con­tin­gent ar­rives

Scenes from the stel­lar open­ing cer­e­mony

The match where it all be­gan; Qatar vs Brazil on the in­au­gu­ral day of the games

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