The 22nd World Cup kicks off Sunday in Qatar, featuring 32 elite soccer teams in 64 matches over 29 days. Qatar, with a population of 2.7 million in a country smaller than the state of Connecticut, is the smallest World Cup host nation since Switzerland in 1954. It is also the first country in the Middle East to host the tournament.
Under a well-documented cloud of labor exploitation and human rights abuses, most of the eight lavishly appointed stadiums serving as World Cup sites were built or updated with the ability to cut capacity after the tournament or to be repurposed altogether as part of a sustainability drive. Qatar has pledged 170,000 removed stadium seats to developing countries in need of sports-related infrastructure.
Here are the eight World Cup stadiums:
Twenty-two miles north of Doha in Al Khor, Al Bayt Stadium will host the tournament opener between Qatar and Ecuador on Sunday.
As part of Qatari organizers’ sustainability plan, the design of Al Bayt allows for the removal of the upper tier and recommissioning of seats after the tournament. A five-star hotel, shopping center and sports medicine hospital will be incorporated into the stadium building.
Khalifa International Stadium opened in 1976 and has had two major renovations, the most recent in 2017. Two prominent structural arches support a wide canopy that helps keep the stadium cooler.
England faces Iran Monday for the stadium’s first match of the tournament.
Al Thumama’s circular form and white latticed exterior is meant to reflect the style of a “gahfiya,” the traditional woven cap worn by Arab males.
After the tournament, Qatar plans to cut its 40,000-seat capacity in half for a smaller venue for soccer and other sports, adding an on-site sports clinic and hotel.
The first match at Al Thumama is Monday between Senegal and the Netherlands.
Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, home to the Al Rayyan and Al Kharaitiyat sports clubs, is 12 miles west of Doha in Umm Al Afaei and named for a former emir of Qatar. A stadium originally opened on the site in 2003 but was razed and rebuilt in 2015, reopening in 2016. More than 80% of the original stadium was used in the reconstruction.
The stadium’s facade is designed to mimic the undulations of sand dunes in the nearby desert.
The U.S. will face Wales here Monday for the venue’s first World Cup match.
A little more than 12 miles from central Doha, Lusail Stadium has a gold facade with a shape meant to mimic a handcrafted bowl. The venue will host 10 matches, including the final. The first match at Lusail is Tuesday between Argentina and Saudi Arabia.
After the tournament, Qatar plans to convert it into a community hub with housing units, shops, schools, cafes and medical clinics. The upper tier will become outdoor terracing for new homes.
Stadium 974, east of central Doha in the Ras Abu Aboud industrial district, gets its name from both the number of recycled shipping containers that make up the venue’s construction along with modular steel, and Qatar’s international dialing code, +974.
After the tournament, the demountable superstructure and shipping containers will be reused, and the site will be used for waterfront business development.
Mexico will play Poland in Stadium 974 on Tuesday for the venue’s first match.
A little more than 4 miles northwest of central Doha, Education City opens for World Cup action Nov. 22 in a match between Denmark and Tunisia.
After the tournament, the stadium’s modular upper tier will be dismantled and half the seats removed. The remaining structure will become a hub for 8,000 students from nearby universities and schools.
Al Janoub Stadium in the southern city of Al Wakrah will make its tournament debut in a match Tuesday between defending champion France and Australia. The billowy design is meant to evoke wind-filled sails of traditional dhow boats, an homage to Al Wakrah’s history with fishing and pearl diving.
After the tournament, half of the seats will be removed and donated to global sports projects. Al Wakrah will continue playing matches at Al Janoub in the Qatar Stars League.
SOURCES FIFA World Cup; Qatar 2022; Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy; Associated Press