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Stadiums as High Art in a World Cup Fantasyland

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AL KHOR, Qatar — It’s hard to convey how strange it’s to return upon Al Bayt Stadium, an unlimited stylized tent decorated with black stripes, for the primary time. Designed for the World Cup as a homage to traditional nomadic dwellings, Al Bayt, the centerpiece of a manicured park 22 miles north of Doha, rises as if from nowhere and seems without delay apt and incongruous, spectacular and otherworldly — an oasis within the desert, or possibly only a mirage.

Accomplished just last 12 months, Al Bayt is one in every of seven latest stadiums built for the World Cup in and around Doha, the capital of Qatar. (An eighth is a spruced-up version of an old stadium.) Each is more spectacular, more unexpected than the subsequent. Each contributes to the relentless sense of cognitive dissonance that pervades this World Cup.

Qatar spent a reported $220 billion preparing for the tournament, conjuring latest buildings, latest neighborhoods and even a wholly latest city. To be here now’s to exist in a bubble of high unreality: a spot by which all the pieces is newer and higher, and which exists, in the intervening time, only in reference to itself.

On match days, it takes nearly an hour by bus to get to Al Bayt. All the other stadiums are easily reachable on the underground metro system, or connected to it by free buses, so this has grow to be a commuters’ World Cup, an event more paying homage to an Olympics than previous tournaments. In Russia in 2018, as an example, some fans needed to travel to Yekaterinburg, nearly 1,000 miles from Moscow, for a handful of matches. In Brazil 4 years earlier, the trip from Manaus to Pôrto Alegre was greater than twice as far.

But here you may visit all of the stadiums in a single day.

Take the train west on the green line, for instance, past the Qatar National Library (architect: Rem Koolhaas), and you end up in Education City, a 2,900-acre campus comprising schools, research centers and incubators. Walk a little bit way along the trail and there may be the 40,000-seat Education City Stadium, looming like a spaceship from a superior civilization whose inhabitants have a taste for bling. In the course of the day, it changes color because the sun moves across the sky; at night, disco-style lights streak across it, fueled by hundreds of diodes.

A Transient Guide to the 2022 World Cup

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What’s the World Cup? The quadrennial event pits the very best national soccer teams against one another for the title of world champion. Here’s a primer to the 2022 men’s tournament:

Where is it being held? This 12 months’s host is Qatar, which in 2010 beat the USA and Japan to win the best to carry the tournament. Whether that was an honest competition stays in dispute.

When is it? The tournament opened on Nov. 20, when Qatar played Ecuador. Over the 2 weeks that follow, 4 games will likely be played on most days. The tournament ends with the ultimate on Dec. 18.

Is a winter World Cup normal? No. The World Cup often takes place in July. But in 2015, FIFA concluded that the summer temperatures in Qatar might need unpleasant consequences and agreed to maneuver the tournament to the relatively bearable months of November and December.

What number of teams are competing? Thirty-two. Qatar qualified robotically because the host, and after years of matches, the opposite 31 teams earned the best to return and play. Meet the teams here.

How does the tournament work? The 32 teams are divided into eight groups of 4. Within the opening stage, each team plays all the opposite teams in its group once. The highest two finishers in each group advance to the round of 16. After that, the World Cup is a straight knockout tournament.

How can I watch the World Cup within the U.S.? The tournament will likely be broadcast on Fox and FS1 in English, and on Telemundo in Spanish. You possibly can livestream it on Peacock, or on streaming services that carry Fox and FS1. Here’s how one can watch every match.

When will the games happen? Qatar is three hours ahead of London, eight hours ahead of Recent York and 11 hours ahead of Los Angeles. Which means there will likely be predawn kickoffs on the East Coast of the USA for some games, and midafternoon starts for 10 p.m. games in Qatar.

Got more questions? We’ve got more answers here.

Along one other metro line is the colourful Stadium 974, whose name is a nod to the (unattainable to confirm) variety of shipping containers said for use to construct it and likewise Qatar’s international dialing code. Stadium 974 is each original and witty, and it’s scheduled to be dismantled at the tip of the tournament. (Are World Cup matches more fun in the event that they’re played in an arena that look like constructed from Legos? Discuss.)

It’s fun to think about the things the stadiums appear to be. Khalifa International Stadium has a dramatically swooping upper rim that brings to mind a Möbius strip. (Next to it’s a striking spear-like constructing thrusting into the air that my colleagues guessed could be a control tower, a telecommunications hub or “something to do with falconry” but that seems to be a hotel.)

At Al Janoub Stadium, the pinkish, gently undulating roof is meant to evoke the “wind-filled sails of Qatar’s traditional dhow boats,” in keeping with the World Cup guide, but as a substitute has grow to be known for evoking the identical form of thing because the flower paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe. (“It’s really embarrassing,” the stadium’s architect, Zaha Hadid, who died in 2016, said when the comparison first got here up. “What are they saying? All the things with a hole in it’s a vagina? That’s ridiculous.”)

Get back on the metro and take the green line to the last stop, the Mall of Qatar. There you’re faced with two equal and opposing forces. Behind you is the mall itself, an enormous temple to retail and entertainment. In front of you, girdled within the evening by a glowing royal blue band of sunshine, is the imposing Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, often called the Gateway to the Desert due to the barren landscape that rolls out into the gap just beyond it. Not everyone seems to be a fan: Architectural Review described it as “an enormous object planted within the desert by the whirlwind of money that swirls around FIFA.”

That’s the problem, or one in every of them, with the mere idea of the Qatar World Cup: the majesty intertwined with the folly. The exploitation of migrant laborers employed to construct its bespoke arenas; the shipped-in grass and the decorative trees in places where these items don’t grow; the sense that the infrastructure, wealthy intimately and high design, is supposed to create future need, not meet one in the current; the best way it at all times feels too hot outside and too cold inside; the ornamental water fountains in one in every of the driest places on Earth — all these items are hard to process.

The opposite evening, I took the metro to the Free Zone station. After a shuttle bus ride and an extended walk, I turned the corner to see the gorgeous Al Thumama Stadium, twinkling like a diamond and silver crown, dramatic against the dark night sky.

“It’s my favorite stadium,” said Abdulrahman al-Mana, a Qatari who was working on the venue but whose regular job is in urban planning. He’s 24 and went to Cornell, on tuition paid for by his government. He’s pleased with Qatar and pleased with the stadium, which was designed by the Qatari architect Ibrahim Jaidah and evokes the gahfiya, the standard woven cap worn by Arab men underneath their ghutras, or head scarves.

Al-Mana spoke passionately about how the stadiums would in lots of cases be shrunk after the World Cup after which repurposed as community and sports centers, surrounded by parks and landscaping. “An enormous component of that is ensuring there may be a legacy for the long run,” he said.

I thought of what he said as I took the metro in the opposite direction to the Lusail Iconic Stadium, at 88,000-plus seats the most important of Qatar’s stadiums, and the location of the World Cup final on Dec. 18. It’s a shiny bauble of a structure, an arrestingly beautiful giant golden vessel that by some means seems to soak up and generate and reflect light all at the identical time.

The stadium is on one fringe of Lusail, a city-in-progress 14 miles from central Doha. Though the town didn’t exist in anything resembling its current form as recently as 20 years ago, it’s soon meant to carry 450,000 people and function a hub for sports, commerce, entertainment and tourism. Sure, it’s gorgeous, said an Azerbaijani man working on the tournament who didn’t want to present his name, but when I actually desired to see something, I should try the 4 futuristic towers towering over the brand new city, glowing purple in the gap. He wasn’t sure what the towers were for — possibly they were only decorative — but suggested it was well value my time: There is a big shark there, he said.

Qatar is thought to be enthusiastic about collecting animals — the country just got two giant pandas from China, and it reportedly plans to construct a park exclusively for giraffes in Lusail — and so it seemed plausible that it could install a shark tank in the midst of a vanity-project city.

Though few people seem yet to live there, Lusail was teeming with crowds experiencing its particular brand of sensory overload. Cool air blew from the bottom, due partly to a hulking cooling plant spewing steam next to the stadium. Inspirational songs blared from loudspeakers. Beams of sunshine danced into the sky. Women dressed as giant red flowers walked around on stilts. Someone was playing Arabic music on a saxophone. The streets were lined with shops: Al-Jazeera Perfumes, a restaurant called “Cup of Joe” and, for some reason, a Chuck E. Cheese the length of a city block.

The thoroughfare appeared to go on for miles. The towers on the far end turned out to be 4 Foster + Partners-designed office buildings, the long run home of, amongst other things, the Qatar National Bank and the Qatar Investment Authority. The shark, suspended on cables between the buildings and glittering and twinkling with light like a disco ball, turned out to be fake.

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