THE SPORTING LIFE

Qatar 2020 | SPORTS & TOURISM | INTERVIEW

While Qatar is striving to make the FIFA World Cup 2022 the most forward-looking one yet, it is also working to ensure the event will contribute to a brighter future.

Hassan Al Thawadi
BIOGRAPHY

Hassan Al Thawadi's appointment in 2011 as secretary general followed his role as CEO of Qatar's 2022 Bid Committee. Al Thawadi previously served as general counsel for Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) and Qatar Holding. He maintains a role at QIA as legal advisor to the CEO and holds board positions at Katara Hospitality, Qatar Chamber for Commerce and Industry, Qatar International Islamic Bank, and Msheireb Properties. He is a joint advisory board member at Northwestern University Qatar, and an advisory council member at Hamad bin Khalifa University and Qatar University. He is a law graduate from the University of Sheffield.

How is the FIFA World Cup 2022 impacting Qatar and its economy?
Qatar recognized the potential of sporting events decades ago to not only diversify the country's oil and gas-driven economy, but also encourage human and social development, healthier lifestyles, and connections between the 90-plus communities and cultures that reside here. Sporting events in Qatar bring in thousands of fans, athletes, officials, and event and sports marketing professionals, who have a direct impact on local businesses and the aviation and tourism sectors. We have seen a steady rise in sports tourism since at least 2009, as well as new businesses opening their doors to service the developing industry. Qatar is not merely looking to 2022; it is investing for the future. We are building world-class sporting infrastructure: eight venues will be built for the World Cup, in addition to the Aspire Zone. More importantly, we are building capacity in the local skills market and developing a new generation of sports marketing and events professionals who will bid for, develop, and deliver Qatar's future sporting events.

What are the plans for the World Cup stadiums after the event?
Sustainability and legacy are at the core of our plans. A number of stadiums will have reduced seating after the World Cup, with over 200,000 seats being donated to developing nations after the tournament. In addition, the precincts around our stadiums will boast amenities that will benefit local communities after 2022. For instance, Al Thumama Stadium and Al Bayt Stadium will each host a branch of Aspetar Sports Clinic. The precincts will also feature boutique hotels, cafes, shopping centers, and commercial and communal spaces.

All stadiums will be completed two years before the event. How will these stadiums be different, incorporate technology, and reflect Qatari traditions?
Dreamt up by some of the world's leading architects, these are some of the most ambitious, visually exciting venues ever conceived. Each stadium takes strong inspiration from Arab culture. While some draw from the essence of Arab clothing, others absorb heritage, nature, and historic Arab architecture. For instance, Al Thumama Stadium takes its inspiration from the gahfiya, a traditional woven cap worn for centuries by men and boys across the Arab world. The “modular" aspects and cooling technology are the most thrilling and innovative elements of our stadiums. Seven of the venues have modular features, meaning they will have demountable seating tiers. The 40,000-seat Al Janoub Stadium, Al Rayyan Stadium, Al Thumama Stadium, and Education City Stadium will reduce their seating to around 20,000 after the event. Ras Abu Aboud Stadium is completely demountable and will be repurposed into smaller sporting and non-sporting venues post-tournament. In addition to state-of-the-art connectivity and security technology, we are also installing cooling technology in stadiums to ensure their use year-round. Many venues also incorporate sustainable energy sources as part of our legacy commitment to deliver a carbon-neutral tournament.

What would you say to any football fan coming to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup?
Come to Qatar in 2022 and enjoy a new experience. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore a diverse and exciting region. The FIFA World Cup will be a family-friendly tournament, combining traditional Qatari and Arab hospitality with innovative fan and player solutions to ensure a unique experience for all. For sports fans eager to experience a vibrant new culture while enjoying a seamless tournament experience, Qatar will offer everything they could wish for. And the diehard football fan who loves nothing more than watching the games live will be able to watch two or more live games in one day, thanks to the tournament's compact nature. Our venues are no further than 55km apart, meaning you can soak up as much football as possible during the tournament's 28 days.