With a little under 2,022 days until the Qatar World Cup kicks off, the ambitious Gulf state officially unveiled the tournament’s first completed venue on Wednesday.
The Khalifa International Stadium — complete with the much-talked-about cooling technology that was central to Qatar’s controversial bid for the World Cup — will host the country’s biggest domestic cup competition, The Emir Cup final.
On the pitch it will be a battle between arguably the country’s biggest teams — Al Sadd, skippered by Barcelona great Xavi Hernandez, who called the stadium “fantastic” on a tour Thursday, and Al Rayyan.
But off the pitch, the stadium will provide a solid example of Qatar’s progress for the World Cup, a mere 2,012 days before the tournament kicks off.
“I think it is a source of immense joy and pride,” Nasser Al-Khater, a senior figure at World Cup organising body, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said.
“It’s a stadium dear to our hearts, Khalifa Stadium, so we’re happy that it’s the first stadium to be completed.
“It’s real; it shows you the progress you’ve been working hard on is actually coming to reality.
“And you can see it and you can feel it — it’s tangible. It’s a thrill.”
The stadium was first built in 1976 and has just gone through its second refurbishment.
It will house 40,000 fans during the World Cup, hosting matches played up to the quarter-final stage.
Significantly, it will also host the 2019 World Athletics Championships.
As part of its revamp, Khalifa includes technology that will provide air-conditioning for fans.
Approximately 500 jet nozzles will blast out cold air, keeping temperatures at around 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit), for fans.
Chilled water is piped to the stadium from a cooling centre about one kilometre from the stadium, then once it arrives, cold air is pushed into the stadium.
The man responsible for the system, Qatar University’s Dr Saud Ghani, said he believed Khalifa represented a world-first.
Khater would not give a figure for the redevelopment of Khalifa, though one estimate puts the cost at $90 million (82 million euros).
Qatar is spending up to $10 billion on stadiums and training grounds, officials have said previously.